All meeting professionals are beginning to recognize that conferences and conventions now take place in a borderless world, but the globalization of the industry raises one very big concern for planners and suppliers alike: how can you communicate with attendees who do not speak the host country’s native language?
A new tool is making great strides in easing that challenge. It’s the Waygo mobile app, and it’s already helping English-speaking business and leisure travelers understand Chinese and Japanese. The technology is simple. Users point their iPhone cameras at text-based signage, and the app delivers an English translation immediately. It also works without an Internet connection, so overloaded convention center and hotel networks won’t leave attendees at a loss (literally) for words.
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Waygo is only in its infancy, but Ryan Rogowski, the founder of the company, tells me that more languages are on the horizon. I’m guessing that I’ll see them launch sooner than later, too. Rogowski says that the company developed the first language translation algorithm for Asian languages because they were the most challenging. The hardest work is in the rearview, and the company continues to secure funding to help with further development. Waygo also earned a coveted Accelerator award at SXSW in Austin, Texas earlier this year.
While translating signage isn’t going to eliminate the need for planners and hoteliers to hire human translators to assist international attendees, I do believe this technology highlights that we’re going to be able to overcome some of the basic hurdles of international attendance. Looking for assistance to the convention center cafe? Need help finding the registration area? Can’t figure out how to connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi? Worried about accidentally ordering a dish off the menu that doesn’t fit with your dietary needs? This app will be able to answer all of these questions — without ever actually saying a word.
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Want To Test Waygo?
If you’re hosting a group in China or Japan in the near future, I would love to connect you with Waygo and see how it helps your English-speaking attendees. Please email me at MCrowley@pcma.org to learn more.
More International Education
Whether you’re interested in learning more about planning a meeting outside the US or you’re hoping to outline a plan to attract new attendees from new locations around the world, PCMA’s Global Professionals Bundle includes some powerful education. Click here to advance your global expertise.