Thanks to apps and the cloud, smartphones are already capable of language translation, but there’s another piece of the communications puzzle when speaking to someone in another language: How to get the translation to them so that they can understand what it is your saying. A Nokia research project called Nokia Hello may be that missing piece. Even for people you really don’t want to talk to.
Nokia Hello leverages NFC, or near-field communications, chips to link two phones together. Instead of trying to speak the translation, you simply tap your phone to someone else’s and the translated text appears in their native language. There are other ways to do this of course: Some translation apps read words aloud, for example. But this solution is quiet so it could be used in a noisy environment or by someone who has hearing challenges.
As positive as the project sounds to me, I think the Nokia researchers may be taking things a little too far. In a blog post describing Nokia Hello, it sounds like the team is hoping for a full quiet-zone in the workplace:
The team working on the project estimate that the need for speech interactions with work colleagues could be eliminated entirely by 2015. Excellent news for those working in multilingual environments or who despise their workmates.
The multilingual environments part I get, but good for people who despise their workmates? Way to spread the cheer, Nokia! That funny tidbit aside, the project does show another smart use for NFC; a technology we typically associate with contactless mobile payment solutions such as Google Wallet.