The days of a Universal Translator like the one that made communication between alien species a non-issue in Star Trek might be some way off yet.
But a new device from NEC is definitely a step in the right direction for those of us on planet Earth looking for a way to communicate with other language speakers that doesn’t involve a human translator or a well-thumbed phrase book. The prototype device called a “Tele Scouter” is a glasses type display that translates the foreign language being spoken by a partner and projects the translation onto a tiny retinal display.
The device mounted on an eyeglass frame consists of the retinal display, front-mounted camera and microphone, but doesn’t perform the translation itself. Rather the microphone picks up the conversation and transmits it to a portable computer worn on the user’s waist. This computer in turn transmits the information to a remote server, which is responsible for carrying out the heavy processing of converting the speech to text, translating it and sending it back to the wearable parts of the system to be displayed on the retinal display.