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Hardware startup Timekettle wants to make translation devices more human.
The two-year-old Shenzhen-based company has begun production on its flagship product, the WT2 in-ear translation device.
Timekettle marketing specialist Kazaf Ye said he believes in-ear translation is a superior method to a device or app that users must pass back and forth.
Ye said that when typing and passing a device back and forth, “You don’t have the eye contact. You don’t have the body language. That’s not natural. That’s not human.”
The company previously targeted travelers, but upon beginning an initial production run, found that only 40% of their consumers were travelers, while another 60% were using the product domestically.
“If it’s only a question, like, ‘Can I get to the subway station? Can I order a steak?’ I think those simple questions, you can do it with the handheld translators. But we provide solutions for long-time communications and deep communications.”
Ye said that typical customers include business users and couples who want to better communicate with international in-laws.
“Because the world is connecting so closely together nowadays,” Ye said, “even though if you don’t travel to foreign countries, they will come to your countries, so you’re going to make more friends.”
When TechNode tested the device, the voice recognition seemed quite accurate as long as the surrounding environment was relatively quiet. Timekettle outsources translation software for most of its 21 languages, so the translation should be on par with any typical automatic translation software, but may vary from language to language.
The device sells for $219 and is currently available on Timekettle’s website. The company says the WT2 will be available in stores in Japan and Italy sometime this January and aims to sell in Chinese stores by February (2019).
Note: This story has been updated to include the price, product performance and availability of the WT2 device.