This Smart Face Mask From Japan Translates Your Speech While You Talk

Donut Robotics have created C-Face Smart Mask, which can also transcribe speech to a mobile app, or make a wearer’s voice louder.

13.08.2020 | by Christy Romer
Photo by Donut Robotics
Photo by Donut Robotics

With the world continuing to grapple with COVID-19, it seems likely that face masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

While a necessary step to control the virus, the widespread use of masks and plastic barriers have some unintended consequences. They make it impossible to read lips and all facial cues — a major part of communication for many, such as people with hearing impairments or living in different language environments.

A Japanese robotics company has created a high-tech solution mask that aims to tackle some of these challenges.

As covered by CNN, the C-Face Smart Mask, created by Donut Robotics, can transcribe speech directly to a connected mobile app, and instantly translate speech into eight different languages.

This works via a microphone and bluetooth capabilities in the mask. C-Face can translate between Japanese and one of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, English, Spanish and French.

In other words, it can translate Japanese into French or Indonesian, but not the other way around.




In addition, the C-Face smart mask can amplify people’s voices for ease of communication in ‘normal’ environments.

“It’s hard to hear what customers at the cash register of supermarkets and convenience stores are saying because there are partitions to prevent droplets,” Donut Robotics CEO Taisuke Ono told Reuters.

“By wearing this mask, it can improve these communications by transcribing the conversations on smartphones or delivering the sound of the voices.”


C-Face, a Donut innovation


CNN explains that the robotics company had already developed the translation software for a communication robot, Cinnamon, but decided to put the project on hold and translate the software for the mask.

The translation software is praised for doing well in noisy environments, one of the key challenges for any such tech — the real world does not operate in a vacuum.

Donut turned to crowdfunding to help develop the project, raising over $800,000 in two rounds on the Japanese Fundinno platform.

The company tells CNN that the masks will first be available in Japan, for a price of between $40 and $50, with an additional charge for the subscription for the app. The plan is to test interest in the product in the UK and US with a crowdfunder on Kickstart, with the mask being available internationally from April 2021.

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