With a Covid-19 vaccine still a ways off, face masks are going to be part of our everyday lives for the foreseeable future. Because of that, one Japanese startup is trying to maximize their utility. It has developed a face mask that doesn’t just provide protection; it will also translate your voice into other languages.
Donut Robotics had just unveiled the c-mask, an internet-connected “smart mask” that translates Japanese into eight other languages, reports Reuters. The white plastic face covering fits over a standard cloth mask and translates the wearer’s speech into text in another language via a smartphone or tablet.
The c-mask translates spoken words into Japanese, English, Chinese, French, Korean, Thai, Bahasa, Spanish and Vietnamese and then transmits the info to its corresponding app using Bluetooth. The app can then send out the translation as a series of text messages, make calls or amplify the wearer’s voice, something anyone who’s worn a mask in public knows is useful.
Donut Robotics’s new mask actually owes its existence to the current coronavirus outbreak. Shortly before the pandemic began, it had just secured a contract to supply robot guides and translators to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. But with fewer people flying because of the pandemic, the company’s engineers began working on products that could help it weather the financial uncertainty of the moment. The result was the c-mask, which utilizes and adapts technology and software the company has been developing over the last half decade.
“We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society,” the company’s CEO Taisuke Ono told the wire service.
The c-mask, which will cost $40 a piece, was funded in part by Japanese crowdfunding site Funddido. The company initially hoped to raise 7 million yen ($65,000) through the platform, but ended up raising a total of 28 million yen ($260,000) in just 37 minutes. Donut Robotic’s first masks will be shipped to buyers in September, and the company hopes to begin selling the product in China, Europe and the US in the near future.