UNBOXED: Reviewing Logbar’s ili Wearable Translator
As our world continues to shrink around us and it becomes easier to travel to foreign lands, we’ve seen translation devices and services crop up all throughout the consumer tech world. The latest entrant—the $249 ili Wearable Translator from Logbar—is perhaps one of the most unique takes on the translation services space. And it also might be the best one yet.
Though it’s described as a “wearable,” all that really means is ili ships with a wrist strap that makes carrying the device around a lot like carrying a point-and-shoot digital camera circa 2006. The ili translator doesn’t physically attach to you or anything like that, and having it do so would really make it more difficult to use.
Using ili is fairly simple in practice. The product is a one-way translation device, which means it can take English input (i.e. sentences or words in English) and translate them to one of three languages: Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese. To do so, the user holds a small button near the top of the device, speaks into it, and releases when they’re finished. Then, ili uses its internal processor to recognize what’s been said and then translates it and plays in back in the desired language.
The prime feature of the product is that it doesn’t require an internet connection in order to work. Because the processing power is handled internally, ili is capable of working quickly to produce translations without an sort of data connection. That also means that users can use the product anywhere are there’s limited lag time between inputting a phrase and getting a translation.
Being a one-way translator, though, means ili cannot take Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese phrases and translate them back into English. While that might seem like a production oversight, ili CEO Takuro Yoshida explained in a video on the company’s website that this was intentional. Through testing phases early on in the production process, Yoshida found that using a two-way device was a challenge for the person the user was trying to communicate with. At times, the other person would be wary of speaking into some strange device, or they’d try to use it but would have trouble doing so. So, to avoid those awkward encounters, ili opted to go the one-way translation route so the owner of the product could drive the experience.
Additionally, as a travel accessory, ili is intended to be a tool for getting quick answers to common questions like, “Where’s the restroom?” In our demoing of the product, we had some fun with outlandish sentences, and it appeared to do OK (at least according to Google’s translation services), but it definitely had a hard time picking up casually spoken sentences. ili, to its credit, does explain in its packaging that the user has to be fairly clear when speaking into the product.
Other question marks with the product include the fact that the packaging doesn’t do a good explaining how to use all of the features (I had to Google how to switch between languages) and the battery life is unclear (three days with an average of 10 uses per day, but what constitutes one use?). The price point ($249) does seem a little high, but considering ili can push frequent software updates, the user is paying for future potential and a wider range of features that aren’t necessarily available right now.
All of that combined, ili is a really cool product for the frequent world traveler.