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Scientists have invented a face mask that translates conversations

Donut Robotics’ new C-mask can translate speech into eight languages

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

Next time you go on holiday, it’s going to feel pretty different. For one thing, you may have to wear a face mask. And that means getting your point across in an unfamiliar language – all while keeping your mouth covered – could become a bit of an issue.

That’s where the C-mask, by Japanese company Donut Robotics, comes in. It’s a ‘smart’, internet-connected mouth covering that can make calls, amplify the wearer’s voice, and most helpfully for travellers, translate conversations into eight different languages.

To use it, you simply place it over a standard face mask and connect it via Bluetooth to a smartphone. A dedicated app will then allow you to record live conversations, transcribe them into text and translate them into English, Chinese, French, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Spanish or Vietnamese (currently only from Japanese) – making it easy to understand what people are saying. It won’t actually speak the translated phrases for you, but it does have a built-in amplifier to help you make yourself heard.

‘We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society,’ Donut’s CEO recently told Reuters. The firm has already raised more than 28 million yen (£210,000, $260,000 or A$370,000) via crowdfunding to develop the product, which will go on sale for 3,980 yen (around £30, $37 or A$53) in Japan from September.

There are all manner of fashionable, eco-friendly masks you can now get your hands on – check out these in LondonSingapore and Barcelona. But in creating an affordable, high-tech equivalent, Donut could well be on to something. What’s the Japanese word for ‘savvy AF’?

Did you see plastic gloves and masks are already clogging up the world’s beaches?

Here are our top tips on how to wash and care for reusable cloth masks.

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