Sony seem to have a great strategy of bringing out peripheral based products that extend their games consoles. The release of EyeToy (USB Webcam), SingStar (Microphones) and just recently Buzz (game-show style buzzers) have all opened up their console to potentially a new market who may not have been interested in the console before.
Well, Sony are at it again – this time with the PSP. PSP Talkman consists of a snap-on microphone that plugs into the PSP in addition to the usual UMD disk. When combined together the two act as a Star Trek-style “universal translator” and will translate voice between English, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin) and Korean.
As someone who has recently spent time in both China and Japan, and experienced at first-hand the general lack on English in both countries, this is something I would be very interested in.
Being PSP, Talkman is presented in an casual and entertaining way – with “Max the blue coloured bird” acting as your guide. Talkman can also act as a language tutor – teaching you to learn phrases in the other languages.
Translation between languages isn’t anything new, not even in portable devices. I used to use a copy of the Berlitz Phrase Book software for my Psion Series 3 organiser when I was learning German in secondary school (it was text based).
However, being able to dictate into a machine that will then repeat your sentence verbally into the local language is something fairly unique. It also brings this kind of functionality to a much wider market – those who may not own PDA’s that can run this kind of software before.
I carry my PSP with me when I go abroad from now on (it’s great for travelling). Being able to slap on a microphone and be able to translate into the local language is definitely something I can see a lot of people being interested in (particularlly if you’ve ever tried buying contact lens saline solution in Shanghai before!).