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Narita Airport tests translation megaphone to help tourists

Aiming to assist with the increasing number of foreign visitors and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for 2020, Panasonic Corp. has been developing a new megaphone system capable of translating a speaker’s voice from Japanese into English, Chinese and Korean.

Narita Airport introduced “Megahonyaku,” a combination of megaphone and honyaku (translation), on a trial basis earlier this month. The device is installed with a radio communication device, which links the megaphone with an external speech translation system.

If someone speaks in Japanese into its microphone, the speech translation system automatically translates their words into English, Chinese and Korean within one or two seconds and the megaphone transmits them in the three languages in order.


Panasonic began developing Megahonyaku about a year ago. The company expects it to be used at venues of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Games.

To incorporate user feedback in the development of the device, the electronics maker sought cooperation from Narita International Airport Corp. (NAA) and decided to provide it to Narita Airport, which many foreigners pass through.

Megahonyaku will be used through March to offer information to foreign visitors who are stranded at the airport after airplane, train and other public transportation services are disrupted due to bad weather or other reasons.

Common expressions can be translated properly, but the speech translation system needs some improvement. It mistranslates, for example, ANA (All Nippon Airways) as “hole,” which is pronounced “ana” in Japanese. Panasonic will adjust Megahonyaku to deal with words specifically used at airports.

“It [Megahonyaku] will be easier to use if it can handle more languages,” an NAA official said. “We’ll study its usefulness and aim to introduce it on a full-scale basis at airports.”

Source: http://www.the-japan-news.com/


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