Tokyo-based BBSS, a 100% subsidiary of Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank, has created an app for the iPhone that translates spoken Japanese into either English or Chinese [JP].
The software sounds cool at first but there are significant drawbacks. The app only recognizes around 1,500 phrases in Japanese. And users must choose between eight predetermined settings: restaurant, travel, sightseeing, flirting, basic talk, emergency situations and transportation. Only then is the iPhone able to help.
For example, users can say “Shuttle wa arimasu ka?” after choosing the travel setting. Then, a text box appears (containing the phrase above written in Japanese characters), which must be confirmed. After that, the iPhone will display and “read” the phrase out loud in English “Is there a shuttle bus around here?”.
I haven’t tried out the app but it sounds really complicated. SoftBank is charging $20 [JP] each for the Japanese-to-English and Japanese-to-Chinese version of the software .