A groundbreaking cell phone that automatically translates the speaker's language from Japanese to English and vice versa could be on the market by 2007, it has been learned. Researchers are also reportedly working to develop similar systems for translation between Japanese, Chinese and Korean. The phone is the first in the world to come equipped with an automatic translation function. With automatic speech translation, when Japanese is spoken into a microphone embedded in the cell phone, the sentences are translated into natural spoken English and transmitted to the person on the other end of the line in 10 seconds or less. Similarly when English is spoken, it is automatically translated into Japanese.
Major electronics firms have already put portable miniature translation devices on the market, but these have generally been limited to basic travel conversations. With the latest translation system, a level of daily conversation equivalent to a score of 600 in the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is possible, with the addition of basic business conversation.
For example, the Japanese question "Shichaku dekimasu ka?" whose subject and object are unclear, is smoothly translated into "Can I try it on?" It is also reportedly the first system in the world to realize automatic translation to a practical conversation level. Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, March 22, 2004