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Robot translators to help tourists in Japan

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But would hi-tech solutions bring more meaningful experiences?
Japanese incoming operator Kinki Nippon Tourist has teamed up with tech firm FueTrek to develop voice recognition technology that is designed to aid Japan’s tourism industry.
The companies are planning to launch a new service in early 2016 that will provide small robots capable of acting as translators, as well as tablet computers and wearable devices that will be able to translate speech in a number of languages.
They are aiming to market the service to small businesses such as hotels, restaurants and attractions that are increasingly coming into contact with customers from around the world.
Many companies in Japan’s travel sector admit they are struggling to find sufficient staff with the right language skills to communicate with the booming number of inbound tourists.
“We do not get too many foreign tourists and I wonder if that might be because our website is in Japanese and they are put off by the idea that we do not speak English,” wondered Shinobu Shimabukuro from the Aqua Blue Spa in Okinawa. “There is a free service in Okinawa where we can phone an interpreter to help us communicate with guests, but that is not very convenient.”
However, not everyone is convinced that the new robot and device services will be an asset.
“We are always up for new ideas to help people get the most out of this wonderful country and culture, but I am not sure a little robot and tablet will do it,” said James Mundy, PR manager at Inside Japan Tours.
“I think Japanese people will still appreciate a foreigner making the effort to actually speak their language with the use of a phrasebook. The effort goes a long way and makes for more meaningful interactions with the people of Japan.”
TTG Asia

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