Inn-terpreter coming to the States

Device makes it possible to understand hotel staff


TOKYO -- Takara Toys has been distributing the "Bowlingual" dog translator in America. This US$120 gadget links a wireless microphone on a dog's collar to a handheld receiver and converts a dog's barks into human speech.

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Riding on the wave of press that this device has generated in advance of its availability in the U.S., the company this week announced that its next product for the Western market will be the "Inn-terpreter."

Aimed at travelers, the Inn-terpreter resembles a hearing aid. Once inserted in his ear, a traveler can activate it by simply cocking his head. The device then translates what is said to him by hotel staff and, as company literature states, "whispers what hotel personnel really mean."

Depending on tone and volume, as well as specific word combinations, a microchip running a patented algorithm inside the Inn-terpreter will return a translation of what the speaker subconsciously or surreptitiously intended. The device even operates during telephone conversations.

In tests performed using prototype units provided by the company, it was found, for instance, that the sentence, "I will have maintenance come to your room immediately" was decoded as, "I hope you brought your own pliers, pal." And the sentence, "I'll see that you receive a wakeup call at six o'clock" came through as, "There's a good chance you'll be up in time for lunch." All-in-all reasonably fair interpretations.

According to insiders, there are already several additional travel related translation devices on the company's drawing boards. If the Inn-terpreter meets the company's sales targets, expect to see the introduction of the "Clari-fly"—it will assist air travelers in understanding what phrases such as "a water landing" really mean—and the "Dine-cipher," which will help restaurant goers interpret the real meaning of terms such as "I'll be right back with your order."

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