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Vasco is your live translator in Japan, Peru, Germany and beyond


It’s January 31st, 2000. You finished work at your job, where a computer has recently made its appearance, and the whole company is excited. You get home, enjoy dinner without additives, and sit in front of the newly purchased colour TV. There, you watch the latest episode of Star Trek. The protagonists talk to aliens through a gadget translating any language in the universe.

Although it seemed like science fiction, and something that would forever remain in the realm of science fiction, the “universal translator” from Star Trek has been invented. No, we’re not talking about Google Translate, ChatGPT, or other apps you can store on your phone. There’s this digital translator that allows you to “speak” in over 100 languages, just like in the famous series.

Vasco, the Universal Translator

Vasco is the Polish invention of a paramedic who, while traveling the world and struggling to communicate with the people he worked with, discovered a real gap in the world of translations. Although traditional translations are covered by translators and/or agencies, when it comes to “everyday life” apps that translate conversations between people, these are often limited.

Thus, Vasco was born, a device the size of a mobile phone that translates 108 languages in real time. You speak into the device’s microphone in your language, and the device immediately writes and interprets, in real time, what you said in the language of your interlocutor. When they respond, let’s say in Japanese, Vasco translates it back, live, into your language. Magic!

What Can It Do?

The latest model, Vasco 4, translates up to 108 languages, allowing you to navigate through 200 countries worldwide. Why would you choose Vasco over a smartphone with the usual translation apps? Because Vasco comes with unlimited internet for life in most of these countries. You never have to spend money on SIM cards ever again in your life.

Moreover, Vasco translates not only in real-time, as it does for 76 languages, but also interprets street signs in various difficult languages, restaurant menus, museum information cards, hotel documents and so on, providing photographic translation in over 100 languages. Voice translation works even with challenging languages like Kyrgyz, Mongolian, Swahili, and others.

Day-to-day Cases for the Universal Translator

Yup, we all trust our phones with all our might. We know they have apps that can get us out of trouble when we finally arrive in Japan, and no one understands what “sarmale cu smântână” (“cabbage rolls with sour cream” in Romanian) means, or where the subway is. However, Vasco is not designed only to get you out of trouble. The device is ideal for any conversational situation.

-Suppose you’re in a taxi, and you want to tell your driver to take you to a specific address. The driver only speaks Japanese. The device allows you to speak in English, translates your request into Japanese, then allows the driver to respond in his language and translates what he says back into English. Everything in real-time;

-You arrive at your accommodation and receive some WhatsApp instructions for entering the building. But, of course, they’re not in English. The chat translation feature allows you to immediately see how to enter the apartment building without needing to call the owner, who probably doesn’t speak English anyway;

-At the restaurant, you sit down and all you see are Japanese characters next to pictures that make you crave the food. Even so, you want to know exactly what you’re ordering. The photo translation feature helps you instantly see what you can order from the menu, so you avoid unpleasant situations where you order based on pictures and end up with something you’re allergic to, like peanuts. That’s not fun when you’re 10.000 miles away from home;

-You’re at a conference and are required to speak with people from Japan, Thailand, and Germany simultaneously. The device has a feature that allows you to do just that, as it can “place” up to 100 people in a virtual room, regardless of their native language.

The Setbacks of the Device

We are not here to question the usefulness of this small and extremely innovative device. As translators, we look at it as a useful and even indispensable tool, especially when traveling to a country where English is not as common as in Europe. However, we believe that Vasco has a few drawbacks that need to be mentioned, so we will note them here on the blog. No biases!

-The price is by far the biggest “hindrance” in the process of acquiring such a device. It costs around 300 to 400 euros, with or without discounts. Which is a sum of money that could get you a mid-range performance smartphone. A bit much for a gadget that only does translations;

-The battery lasts up to 3 days, which for a device that only handles translations is a relatively short time. You would expect a translation-focused device, used only when you need it, to come with a longer battery life. The popular reading gadget, Kindle, can be used for up to 30 days;

-Although the gadget mostly enjoys positive reviews, some users claim that Vasco does fail sometimes. Especially if you speak too quickly or if you don’t keep the device close enough to your mouth. Potato, patato

If you are curious to see how Vasco performs (English closed captions available) in a country like China, watch this vlog:

YouTube player

With or without gadgets, we wish you the very best of luck to never get lost in translation!