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White plastic face mask.
White plastic face mask.

This Mask Can Translate Speech Into 8 Different Languages

The Japanese startup company Donut Robotics has developed a mask that works with Bluetooth and an app on your phone to amplify the wearer’s voice, transcribe dictation, and translate speech into 8 different languages.

It’s called the C-Mask and it is able to translate between Japanese and Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, English, Spanish and French. Motivated by the pandemic, Donut Robotics needed to come up with a new idea and FAST. They were in the middle of working on a robot prototype named Cinnamon when life as we knew it came to a halt; thus, they pivoted and created a new mask-wearing playing field.

A person wearing a suit and tie
The communication robot “Cinnamon” produced by Japan’s Donut Robotics, is demonstrated at a departure floor of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on December 12, 2017.
Japan Airport Terminal which manages Haneda Airport unveiled robots as part of the company’s Haneda Airport robot experiment project to assist workers at the airport. / AFP PHOTO / Kazuhiro NOGI (Photo credit KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)

While the mask is not created to protect against the virus, it is designed to be worn comfortably over a standard face mask. C-Mask is made of plastic and silicone and has a microphone built in that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The Bluetooth chip can connect up to 32 feet away and Donut Robotics CEO Taisuke Ono claims,

“the technology is better than Google API, or other popular technologies for Japanese language users, because most competitor apps focus on translating to and from English.”

Now check this out…Remember how I said they were working on a robot prototype BEFORE the pandemic?

Well, building a robot isn’t cheap and when the pandemic hit, Donut Robotics was quickly going under. The company took to a crowdfunding platform in June and in 37 minutes they raised 28 million yen ($265,000 USD), and in July raised another 56.6 million yen ($539,000) for the C-Mask project.

But what will it cost?

C-Mask will run you about $40-$50 with an extra cost for the actual app, of course. The first wave of distribution (up to 10,000 masks) is set to drop in Japan by December, says Ono. For now, Donut Robotics will not be expanding overseas but are looking into UK and US crowdfunding to potentially expand next year.

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