A simple to use point-and-shoot translator that’s not entirely convincing
Bonjour! Hola! Konichiwa! Ola! Namaste! If travel is getting easier, communicating isn’t. Yes, English is gradually becoming the lingua franca, but if you travel often, and you travel well, you’re definitely going to end up in some out-of-the-way places where English is not going to help you. Even if you stick to the beaten path, having a more in-depth conversation with locals is surely something to strive for. Cue the Travis Touch Plus, which can translate 105 languages.
Travis Touch Pocket Translator: design
Travis Touch Plus has some nice flourishes. The rounded pebble-shaped chassis is great to hold, but what we liked most is the Qi wireless charging option. If you already own a smartphone with the same skill and already have wireless charging pads, it’s a hassle-free way of topping-up its 22-hour battery. It’s also got a 2.4-inch touchscreen that displays the input and output languages as flags, which you can scroll through, or ask for by a voice command after pressing a button below. There’s also an optional wrist strap that tethers it to you, but in practice, TravGear was happier with it hidden in our top shirt pocket.
Travis Touch Pocket Translator: specs
This gloss black palm-sized device has 20 translation engines inside and can translate a total of 105 languages and comes with a touchscreen (hence the name), but the most telling feature is its Nano SIM card slot. Travis Touch Plus can only translate between English and 20 spoken languages (using those built-in translation engines) while it’s offline. It can do many others with a data connection, but that does mean you have to sort out a SIM card (Travis sells a 1GB global data SIM card for €29). Hmmm. Not ideal.
Travis Touch Pocket Translator: data connection
It’s a huge shame Travis Touch Plus doesn’t also have an eSIM inside, as many global WiFi mobile hotspots do (which let you subscribe online to a data plan for a few dollars). After all, what’s the likelihood of travelers also wanting to be able to install a SIM card when they arrive in a destination? It’s a pain, and nobody wants to do it – and that’s for their smartphone. Why would they want to do so for a translator that is only going to be used occasionally?
Travis Touch Pocket Translator: performance
TravGear’s reservations aside, Travis Touch Plus is reasonably good at what it does. After touching one button on the Travis Touch Plus, the user speaks a sentence and the translation comes out of its top-mounted speaker … though sometimes it takes up to 10 seconds. Cue awkward glances. For the reverse, when someone else is speaking in another language, you have to press a different button before they speak. Technically, it’s reasonably impressive though in our test with English-to-French the phrase ‘Can you show me the way to Notre Dame cathedral’ was heard as ‘Notes for Dumb’. I could see what had happened, but had no way of stopping the error-strewn translation being played. Most phrases were heard OK, but there was a small mistake in most of them. In practice, real-time translation is not that easy even when it’s accurate. It’s easy to miss the first bit of what the other person says unless you’re trigger-happy and able to pre-empt them, or better still, get them to operate Travis Touch Plus themselves. That entails teaching them how to use Travis Touch Plus, which isn’t practical for short conversations.
Travis Touch Pocket Translator: conclusion
Travis Touch Plus does its best to get over the real problems of real-time translation, and that’s the issue of it seeming simultaneously highly personal and hugely impersonal. Having a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak your language is great, but the need to hold and look frequently at a device while that person is speaking feels strange. A pretty much hands-on device, Travis Touch Plus is impressive, despite its accuracy issues, but is it a must-have for travel? Probably not, partly because pocket translators haven’t become common ‘in the wild’ yet. With the likes of Google Translate around, devices like Travis Touch Plus seem very much a second wave that may, or may not, catch-on. Ultimately, its functions will almost certainly be available as an app on a smartphone. That’s probably what it should be.