All About Japan

Japanese Tech Breaking Communication Barriers

| Technology , Science

Japanese is considered one of the hardest languages to master, as travelers and expats alike can surely confirm. However, one product is using breakthrough technology to push past the barriers of communication and help you be understood here in Japan. Join our writer Eric as he hits the Tokyo streets to test this revolutionary translation device.

What is ili?

Developed by Logbar, a Japanese startup, ili was made with the mission to help travelers experience a new way to explore the world. Takuro Yoshida, Logbar’s CEO, recalls the difficulties he had communicating overseas when he was younger. “When I was 18, I traveled to the US. Even though I had a good time, communication wasn’t so easy. One situation that I can recall was the time I tried to find a gift for my mother in Japan. The problem was I couldn’t tell anyone what I was interested in or what I was looking for. A product like ili would have helped me a lot at the time and I’m positive I could have received a ton of great recommendations. So that’s what gave me the inspiration to create ili.”

ili is a one-way device. Logbar’s reasoning for this is because they’re focusing on travel situations that require only yes/no/gesture responses. They also found that a two-way prototype caused much dissatisfaction amongst travelers. Those who responded using a two-way ili would use complex sentences, proper nouns, and such that ili would not recognize. This caused unnecessary back and forth conversation and wasted both the travelers and respondents time.

What makes ili so special is that you don’t need to hunt for an internet connection, it’s Wi-Fi free. Also, it’s easy to use. Just push and hold the home button then speak.

ili in Real Life

I've recently been using ili for a few adventures here in Tokyo. Most recently, I convinced my Canadian bud Chris to tag along and we took ili for a spin in Tateishi. For those who don’t know where Tateishi is, it’s a railway station on the Keisei Oshiage Line in Katsushika, Tokyo. If you want to get a local feel and escape the hustle of the central wards, this is the place for you. It’s not a big area by any means, but it has an bunch of crammed izakayas, bars, and even an arcade (sorry, no Street Fighter though). It may seem trashy to some, but that’s what makes it so fun in my opinion. You’ll often see locals drinking a variety of sake and the older generation gathering over crisply grilled yakiniku. Also, did I mention, this small town is cheap!

Chris and I went to a few local restaurants where ¥1,000 will satisfy just about anyone. Ordering drinks at Tan Tan, Retoro (aka Retro), and Pizza ¥390 using ili was a breeze. Not only that, I’m pretty sure the locals were in awe with seeing such a new device. It definitely broke the ice and made for a fun time.

As mentioned earlier, pre-orders are going to be re-launched during 2017. If you’re interested in checking ili out, please go to their Facebook page for more details. Until then, safe travels.