Wearable translator specifications

Jani Patokallio, University of Tokyo

Thought of the day:

"Until we can offer some alternative to the anachronistic technologies we are using today to interact with computers (keyboards? mice? not exactly intuitive for Joe Sixpack are they?) extending the domain for computers is going to fail. "

-- Dan Hayes

The four directions of translation

The answer to the question: You're a tourist or businessman in a far-away land. What should your magic box do so you can communicate?

native foreign
speech --> <--
writing --> <--

Native to foreign speech

Input: User's speech in native language
Output: Speech/writing in foreign language

Tech Reqs:

Feasibility: May actually be usable in optimal situations

Foreign to native speech

Input: Random speech in foreign language
Output: Speech/writing in native language

Tech Reqs:

Feasibility: Unlikely to be use unless pre-trained for the person speaking

Foreign to native writing

Input: Random text in foreign language
Output: Writing in native language

Tech Reqs:

Feasibility: Might be able to get a large sign right every once in a blue moon...

Native to foreign writing

Seems unlikely to be of use in a wearable setup? Of course, you may want to convert static documents (web pages, notes, whatever) back and forth, but this is not really a wearable application... ignore for now.

But what about the interface?

The way the user will actually interact with the system is ignored completely -- even though that's what this thesis is all about! So for the moment, we're trying to figure out what we will need in any case, and the kinky problem of user input and interaction will be shunted to one side...

Some pointers for the future anyway:

Initial preference would be to reject the old finger-operated-device paradigm entirely and go for something new, but more about in another document...

Design parameters

The fuzzy definition of a wearable computer is that it's a computer that is always with you, is comfortable and easy to keep and use, and is as unobtrusive as clothing.

-- MIT Media Lab

Important factors:

Less important factors

Implicit assumptions

We want just one system that performs as many of the four listed tasks as possible. (In practice, we will probably end up doing a number of prototypes, or at least try out different peripherals.)

We want a computer that runs Linux and, if possible, open-source software. This is a prototype, it will need lots and lots of improvement, it would be good to be able to tweak and reuse software to suit our purposes...

We want an eye-level display that augments the normal field of vision. Wristpad screens, immersive displays, etc are not usable for conversations.

We assume the translator is a stand-alone application: the computer will either support only the translator, or it will at least take over the display, input and output while in use. This assumption may or may not be reasonable.

Component-level requirements

Display requirements

This is the tough one, all the really good stuff is still just a teensy bit out of reach...

CPU/Memory/Storage requirements

Bulk equipment, lots of companies in the miniature computer market all offering more or less the same stuff...

What else?

Prototype A


Estimated cost: ~Y75,000


Summary: Reasonably cheap and very fast way of getting a functional setup working and seeing what direction to proceed for more experimental work