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NCNU hatches cutting-edge solution for real-time interpretation

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A gadget for instantaneous translation is no longer the stuff of one's dreams. Supported by the Learning and Empowerment Center for Small-business Startups of NCNU (LESSON+), four university students have developed a fuss-free way of achieving simultaneous English and Japanese interpretations of spoken Mandarin.

Maxwell Peng (彭德新), co- founder of Taiwanese startup Maxon Creative that produces the VM-FI kit for real-time translation services, explains that AI computes speech-to-speech translation, the audio connects via 5G/WiFi, and the message is communicated to every permitted smart device within a 50-meter radius.

Tseng Yung-ping (曾永平), secretary-general of NCNU, explained that the program's database will be regularly updated with Taiwan-specific terminology as well, so that English and Japanese translations for such terms as "Sun-Moon Lake Hongyue Black Tea" and "Formosa Tea No. 18" will be standardized in usage.

"The speaker just has to speak into the mic, which will record and decipher the audio using 5G and AI, and the interpretations will be broadcasted directly from the participants' smartphones," said Tseng.

Yeh Mei-li (葉美麗), a freshman from Indonesia, uses the app for class and believes that it will help others like her, an overseas compatriot student, who are not yet as fluent in Mandarin as their classmates. It also means that they don't need to take Japanese courses to take tourists from Japan on a tour of central Taiwan's black tea plantations.

Noting that new compatriot students from Indonesia may need some time to adjust, Secretary-general Tseng is hopeful that such technological solutions can help ease their transition to university life in Taiwan.

The VM-FI team went on to win one of the 4 "best potential" awards for startups – out of 129 competitors in the Ministry of Science and Technology's "IP to IPO" challenge last month. Founder Peng adds that many international participants even used their services to communicate with delegates from other countries during the competition's closing gala.

Using VaaS (Voice as a Service) broadcasting to multiple users in real time, VM-FI hopes to eliminate the world's language barriers. More information is available at www.vmfi.net.

The patented kit is also available through Taiwan's public procurement system for government agencies and universities.

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