As Japan gears up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japanese technology is taking an unprecedented step towards accommodating foreign visitors. The following are some technological advancements that are expected to be put to practical use by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

1. Interactive vending machines

For anyone who has ever visited or lived in Japan, vending machines can be found on practically every street, no matter how desolate the area is. The convenience of being able to quickly purchase a drink from a vending machine explains its prevalence throughout the country. But for a foreigner who knows little Japanese, such vending machines pose little convenience.

After discovering that foreigners are less inclined to buy drinks from vending machines since they cannot read the labels, Asahi Group Holdings and Nomura Research Institute developed interactive vending machines that utilize voice-recognition technology to help English-speaking foreigners make an informed decision when purchasing a drink from a vending machine. Customers simply speak to a screen adjacent to the vending machine and after answering a series of questions in English, customers are able to purchase their drink of choice. Check out the video below to see the vending machine in action!

2. Taxis equipped with Japanese-English translating systems

Getting around Tokyo is no walk in the park. As the largest metropolis in the world, the city is an urban jungle consisting of a maze of underground subway lines and streets that twist and turn in every direction. Hopping into a taxi and telling the driver where you would like to go is an easy way to get to your destination — unless you don’t speak Japanese.

KDDI Corporation, one of Japan’s major telecommunications corporations, have attempted to solve this issue by developing real-time voice translation systems that translate English into Japanese, and vice versa. The passenger can speak English into a smartphone that is equipped in the rear seating area. The English is translated into Japanese, which is then emitted from a smartphone located in the front seat that the driver is able to access. This system (which is also available in Korean and Chinese) essentially eradicates the language barrier between foreign passengers and local taxi drivers, thereby allowing foreign tourists to take full advantage of their experience in Japan.

3. Robots at your service

At the forefront of robotic technology, Japan is already attempting to create a society that would be the setting for a Sci-Fi novel. By the 2020 Olympics, the Japanese government is hoping to install a population of robots throughout the city that would co-exist with the human population. These robots, according to Asahi Shimbun, would “assist humans regardless of age, nationality or disabilities” by helping travelers with their luggage, directing lost tourists, and possibly most useful of all, providing language translation services for visitors who do not speak Japanese.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.