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A Multilingual Mask for a Global Pandemic

This invention consists of a standard white plastic mask, which has a Bluetooth connection to synchronize it with a smartphone or tablet.

In times of pandemic, if you’re protected, you’re smarter. And to protect itself in the most intelligent way possible, the Japanese startup Donut Robotics has created a “mask” that, through an internet connection, could be able to translate Japanese into different languages.

“We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we used this technology to create a product that responds to the coronavirus that has been remodeled by society”, mentioned Taisuke Ono, executive director of Donut Robotics, in a demonstration of the product in Tokyo.

This invention consists of a standard white plastic mask, which has a Bluetooth connection to synchronize it with a smartphone or tablet. The user, through an application, will be able to transform the speech into text messages and call out, as well as amplifying his voice using the mask. Since September you can protect yourself in other languages with “smart masks” or “c-masks” that will be officially launched on the market in the next month.

The first five thousand masks are expected to be sent to buyers in Japan and after marketing in China, the United States, and Europe. Each mask had a cost of 40 dollars per piece, which would launch the Japanese almost immediately to a mass market.

It is important to mention that the prototype of the product was elaborated in just one month with translation software that originally was created for a robot that the company was developed for the Haneda airport in Tokyo. However, the cancellation of air travel by the pandemic helped the developers to think about another viable idea.

Likewise, a design that Shunsuke Fujibayashi, an engineer of the company, used four years ago as part of a student project that consists of mapping facial muscles to interpret the speech. The development of this invention was possible thanks to a recall of 28 million yen, a sum equivalent to $ 300 K, in which Donut Robotics shares were sold through Fundinno, a Japanese crowdfunding site.

“We raised our initial target of 7 million yen in three minutes and stopped after 37 minutes when we reached the 28 million yen”, added the CEO of the company. The “c-mask” has added to a large number of technological ideas from companies and developers around the world to create solutions around the health crisis. Among these, we highlight the artificial intelligence in hospitals and 3D printing to create respiratory ventilators. Also, among the background is the project by Jim Collins, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who, along with his team, developed sensors that could detect the Ebola virus.

Today, this technology is capable of detecting diseases such as measles, influenza, hepatitis C and SARS. Therefore, it is expected that it will be ready to adapt to detect the virus that causes COVID-19.

By Juan Paulo Pérez-Tejada

I've studied Linguistics at the National School of Anthropology and History. I'm interested in NLP and Full-stack web development.

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