Need to communicate with someone who speaks a different language? You can fire up Google Translate or other translation apps on your phone and start talking. But a startup called Travis thinks there are situations where you might not want to use your phone.

So they’re running a crowdfunding campaign for a handheld gadget that can translate between 80 different languages.

The Indiegogo campaign runs for a few more days, and has already raised more than a half million dollars in pledges, which is way more than the goal. So if everything goes according to plan, Travis translators should begin shipping in July.

The gadget will have an estimated retail price of $199, but backers can reserve one for a pledge of $139 or more.

Here’s how it works: if two people are speaking in different languages, Travis should automatically detect that fact and start translating. For example, you can say something in English and then Travis will say the same thing in German. Then the other person speaks in German and Travis translates it to English.

Three-party conversations are also possible, but you’ll need to tell it “Travis, Spanish” before speaking in order to help it figure out which language to choose.

The system uses multiple (and unspecified) translation engines, and it’s supposed to be able to automatically pick the best one for the language pairing you’re using. Travis has a built-in speaker but also supports wired and wireless headsets, so you can use it in public or private settings, or in situations where not everyone needs to hear the translation.

It supports 20 languages when not connected to the internet, but the list goes to 80 when you have an internet connection via WiFi or 3G.

Features include a 240 x 240 pixel display, a touch surface for controls, and a battery that should last for up to 12 hours of offline use, 6 hours of online use, or 7 days in standby.

It’s that battery that may be one of the key selling points for this translator: you can use it for long conversations without worrying about running down your smartphone battery. The ability to use multiple translation engines from one user interface is also supposed to be something that sets this apart from smartphone apps, but I have to wonder how often you’ll actually take advantage of that.

Sure, I suppose it’s possible that you could find yourself in a situation where you need to communicate with 5 different people, each speaking a different language. But I suspect a translator like this would most commonly be used in face-to-face conversations between speakers of just two different languages, whether you’re a tourist trying to ask questions about a restaurant menu or a business traveler trying to make a deal. So you probably only really need one app at a time.

Still, it’s kind of nifty to think that technology has reached a point where you can carry a sub-$200 device in your pocket and use it to communicate with people around the world without cracking open a dictionary.

via The Verge

 

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5 replies on “Travis is a handheld translator with 80-language support (crowdfunding)”

    1. Hi Gary,
      We understand you might be sceptical, but we can assure you team Travis is working really hard to make this happen. On our Indiegogo page you can see our progress, which we are really transparent about. The deliveries to our backers are scheduled for June.
      Best,
      Lana

  1. “Still, it’s kind of nifty to think that technology has reached a point where you can carry a sub-$200 device in your pocket and use it to communicate with people around the world without cracking open a dictionary.”

    You mean a smartphone?

    Countless crowdfunding campaign have tried to sell the same concept, but I don’t see any point in wasting so much money on a device that does something that you can do for free if you have a smartphone already.

    1. Hi Aja! We understand your doubts about the possibilities of Travis.
      I agree that an app from the phone can do a great translation but once you use it more often, there are 3 key practical issues that arise: battery, speaker/mic and non-verbal communication.

      More extensively, you will depend on the battery of your phone, which we all know it does not usually last more than 1 day (or hours if you use it a lot). Travis can last 12 hours so you can keep your phone battery for other issues.
      You also need to take into account the speaker/microphone of your phone, not all phones are that good. Travis has louder speakers and a more sensitive microphone because it is designed for this purpose.
      The non-verbal communication is very important. With Travis you do not need to tap on your phone, you just need to leave it with you and therefore you can make eye contact in all moment with the person you are talking with.
      The possibility of 3 people in 3 different languages is also possible. The third person just needs to say “Travis, language” and speak, so then Travis will translate a 3rd language as well without having to configure it again.
      Travis is designed for a quick communication, therefore you don’t need to set up many things before starting to talk. Travis can detect automatically the language, no setting are required, therefore saves time.
      The possibility of using your phone while you are in the conversation makes it a great positive option.
      Furthermore, you will be able to translate 20 languages in an offline mode. Also, there is no need to take your expensive smartphones out when you are traveling (we all know many things can happen out there).

      I hope this will help you to decide to buy Travis or at least, trust in our campaign 🙂

      Best!

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