Ever since Star Trek explained away how all alien races could speak English through a piece of future tech called the Universal Translator, technology companies have worked to create just such a device. One may have succeeded in developing a 1.0 version with the Sigmo.
The Sigmo is a small, pillbox-sized device equipped with a microphone and speaker, but with a cloud-connected twist. Select the language you’d like to translate into, then hold the Sigmo up and speak to it. The Sigmo records your voice, then sends the recording to the cloud for translation via Bluetooth connection with your smartphone.
Services such as Google Translate help decipher what you said, then send the translation back to the device. Seconds after you first speak, Sigmo plays back the translation, audible to anyone close by — including (presumably) the well-meaning local from whom you were trying to get directions to the museum.
Sigmo’s translation skills are only as good as its connection to the Internet, but the device can also work as a simple Bluetooth speaker or as a Google voice search on an Android device.
Anyone who’s ever found themselves in a restaurant in a foreign land, where a simple request for a table, menu or glass of water turned into a comedy-fest of misunderstood terms, will appreciate the Sigmo. Some might argue that these types of experiences are part of the fun of travel — but the novelty wears off after the fifth time (or after being charged double or triple).
The device also facilitates easier travel and cultural experience by enabling communication with locals in the area or country you’re visiting — interactions that, without the device, would likely include frustrating bouts of flipping through translation books, or frantic scribbling of diagrams and emphatic hand gesturing. Conversations as simple as asking for directions, or as meaningful as trading anecdotes about different lifestyles become seamless and infinitely more detailed with the help of this little gadget.
Sigmo’s Indiegogo campaign has been wildly successful, and it plans to ship the final devices in January 2014. It’s definitely a gift worth waiting for.