Cutting-edge translation tech set to redefine business travel

As we are now in the busiest time of the year for business travel, entrepreneurs around the world are looking for ways to save on time, money and resources as the demand for a personalised, immediate, seamless and hassle-free experience is growing to allow travellers to productively focus on the business objectives of their trip.

Over the last few years, this same desire for a time-saving approach to business travel has enjoyed great advances. The impact of technology on the hospitality industry has been wide-ranging, multi-faceted and, almost without exception, totally pervasive and, as a result, traveller and guest services have been digitally enhanced at every imaginable level.

Recognising the potential adaptations for new technology in the business travel sector, Manchester-based start-up Mymanu have developed CLIK, an innovative set of true wireless earbuds that possess the ability to provide live, seamless and instant voice translation between 37 different languages, offering the business leaders of today the ability to communicate fluently all around the world, without the need – or cost – for a dedicated on-site translator.

Now, with support from Marriott Hotel’s TestBED accelerator programme, founder Danny Manu and his team are set to change the way that we communicate with each other for good, not only in the realm of business, but with some incredible potential for wider application. Below, Danny Manu explains the story behind his product, and sheds light on how Mymanu can and will be used to revolutionise business travel communications…

1. Tell us about the inspiration for this new technology? How does this relate to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

Douglas Adams’ famous novel introduced us to the Babelfish – a species which, when inserted into the ear, allows the ‘wearer’ to understand any language spoken around them. CLIK translates 37 languages in real time at present, and users enjoy silicone-tipped comfort, rather than a slippery fish!

2. How does the technology work?

CLIK is the result of years of research into the best way to offer instant translation. Its ground-breaking software works with the Mymanu Translate smartphone app to detect the language being spoken and translate in real time. The earbuds and the app connect via Bluetooth, and the earbuds themselves are also completely wireless, employing a Near-Field magnetic induction (NFMI) connection which does away with the unwieldy connection cords that Google has decided to use in its Pixel Buds product.

3. The technology seems to have applications in many different industries. Why did you choose to pilot in a hotel?

We took part in Marriott’s annual accelerator programme which looks for emerging technology that has the potential to transform the hotel experience. We beat almost 150 tech start-up companies from across Europe to become one of just three finalists selected to have their products honed in the real life hotel environment, with the six  week pilot phase taking place at the Madrid Auditorium Hotel, one of Marriott International’s largest venues dedicated to business travel. It is the perfect location to trial Mymanu.

4. How do you think this will affect the way we experience travel? Where is the demand for this solution?

Communication is, and always has been,  hugely important – whether we’re at home or in a country where we don’t speak the native tongue. It is just not feasible to learn a completely new language from scratch each and every time we travel, but we do need to be able to speak to and to understand people.

When language is no longer an issue, business travel suddenly becomes far more productive, decisions can be made much faster and, importantly, there are fewer misunderstandings. Outside of business, holidays can also be much more exciting when there is no language barrier in the way; it’s much easier to discover the hidden gems that the locals recommend. Problems, like lost passports or illnesses, can be sorted out without fuss, leaving users with more time to get on with work or simply enjoy themselves.

5. How has the product changed during the pilot phase so far?

We’ve been developing CLIK for a number of years prior to this particular pilot, and we will start shipping to customers in November, so there haven’t been any significant revisions during the programme. That said, feedback from our testing programmes, including the recent Marriott pilot, will certainly inform future product development.

6. How do accelerator programs such as Marriott TestBED influence start-ups in the space? How has this helped grow your business?

Accelerator programmes, whether they are private or public sector supported, provide valuable opportunities for smaller companies to improve their business knowledge and validate their technologies or business models.

As a short, six-week pilot, TestBED has not yet impacted on our business growth, but we’re really confident that the knowledge we have gained as a result of the programme will help us to identify and prioritise the most lucrative opportunities and markets, potentially accelerating our growth.

7. How will this technology change the way we experience language? What is the next step here?

Language is often experienced as a barrier. Our focus, as a company, is on removing those barriers, allowing people to overcome misunderstanding – or even mistrust. CLIK’s applications stretch way beyond travel and tourism, we’re looking at opportunities to make communication simpler whether you are in a new place for just a few days or, indeed, if you are in it for the long haul. CLIK has the potential to make life easier for people in some of the toughest situations you can imagine – people working in disaster relief efforts or those escaping war, for example.

8. What is your ultimate goal for the technology?

Our ultimate goal is a world where our technology is so embedded, that people look back on the world where language ‘got in the way’ as an odd, historical curiosity.

Danny Manu, Founder & CEO, Mymanu
Image source: Shutterstock/polkadot_photo