Tech

Startup Developed a Smart Face Mask That Translates Speech Into Eight Different Languages

By Grace Stewart , Aug 07, 2020 06:58 AM EDT
(Photo : ドーナッツ ロボティクス (Donut Robotics) on YouTube)

A Japanese robotics company developed a smart face mask that can help communication between people wearing face coverings. It is capable of amplifying the wearer's voice and translating speech into eight different languages.

Startup company introduces the smart face mask

The smart mask is called C-Face, and it was developed by Japanese startup Donut Robotics. As we may have experienced, wearing a face mask can affect communication between people. Often, it is difficult to hear a speaker's voice through the mask or other face coverings. C-Face can help interactions under such circumstances.

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C-Face is capable of turning up or down the speaker's voice coming out of the phone. It is made of silicone and soft plastic material. It has perforations at the front for breathability. It comes fitted with a microphone that is Bluetooth-connected to the user's smartphone. The smart face mask then delivers the user's voice to the other party's smartphone.

Likewise, the device is capable of completing phone calls and translation translating Japanese into other languages. These languages include Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Korean, English, French, and Spanish.

C-Face is designed to fit over any kind of face covering. However, it is not meant as a protection against COVID-19. So, it should be worn in conjunction with a standard face mask.

The C-Face's translation software was initially intended for a robot that Donut Robotics was developing - Cinnamon. According to CNN, Cinnamon was selected as one of the four prototypes for Haneda Robotics Lab's initiative.

The company designed Cinnamon to help international travelers navigate their way through the airport. Cinnamon was chosen because of its aesthetics and user-friendly design. The translation software used in Cinnamon also performed well in noisy environments.

Due to the pandemic and closure of airports, the project had to be put on hold. So, to keep the company going, they sought a solution that could allow them to adapt the technology for a product that would sell well despite the pandemic.

Turning the pandemic into a business opportunity

The company, then, decided to incorporate the software into the face mask. The smart face mask, in turn, could help industry and healthcare workers communicate clearly from behind protective glasses and face coverings.

To make the project possible, the company turned to a Japanese crowdfunding platform Fundinno. The company raised $265,000 or ¥28 million in just 37 minutes. Donut Robotics CEO Taisuke Ono said he was surprised by the outcome. Ono said it usually takes three or four months to raise that kind of money. 

In the second round of crowdfunding, they raised $539,000 or 56.6 million yen. Ono said he plans to use the fund to develop translation software for the international market. The company is looking at shipping the first 5,000 C-Face masks in Japan beginning September. They are targeting China, the United States, and Europe markets as well.

The company plans to expand the smart mask's capabilities. In the future, image systems like AR and VR will be incorporated.

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