The future always seems to be just around the corner, but one piece of science fiction is coming sooner than people might expect. While virtual reality is a phrase that’s been invoked often recently, promising the idea of exploring digital worlds, augmented reality is a counterpart in which the world we see and live in gets a little digital assistance. Early prototypes such as “Google Glass” and now Microsoft’s “HoloLens” have made great strides in bring this technology closer to the general public.

Augmented reality is essentially a piece of advanced technology, in the form of glasses, goggles, or a visor, that a user wears.

Augmented reality is essentially a piece of advanced technology, in the form of glasses, goggles, or a visor, that a user wears. The glasses are capable of understanding what the wearer is looking at, and projecting images across the lens to augment what the user is seeing. This uses of this technology can take many forms, including personal navigation systems that show the correct path right before your eyes, and friendly assistants—be it digital or real—that can see what the user is seeing and provide more crucial information and detail.

The Ultimate Trip Advisor

One way that augmented reality will be a huge boon is to travelers exploring a country with an unfamiliar language or alphabet. While it’s still possible for Western travelers of France, Germany and the USA to read street signs, store signs and other displays and take a guess at what the new alphabetical arrangements might be saying, this simply isn’t possible when going to Asian countries such as China, Japan and Thailand that have very distinct, different forms of written communication, in addition to a different spoken language.

Augmented reality can be a helpful assistant in such matters, providing either built-in software capable of reading—and translating—a language, to providing a service, allowing people to get in contact with a real world assistant that speaks their language and can tell them what they are looking at, or what they need to say or do to communicate with the person in front of them. With the coming of augmented reality, travelers can negotiate a foreign country with much more confidence and security, because the ability to translate whatever you are looking at—or even hearing—is sitting right in front of the user’s eyes, ready to work on whatever they are interacting with.

The Collaboration

While this is going to be a great help to those that wish to travel a bit more independently, and not be constantly referring to a book, or phone or tablet to get their point across, it is also going to require far more work from the translation industry, working in tandem with the technology. Obviously a human assistant won’t be feasible for every request or question a person may have, but on the other hand, entrusting a translation entirely to a mathematical algorithm or search engine doesn’t yield consistent, ideal results.

The real usefulness and potential of augmented reality as a travel device will require both the experts in translation and the experts in technology to work together. When that happens, this exciting new technology is make understanding other languages faster and more engaging than ever.

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