Wearabletech: Gucci Translate Anyone?

This innovation from IconSpeak caught my eye recently, though not the attention of my credit card.

It’s a t-shirt printed with icons that enables global travellers to communicate by pointing to the icons, doing away with the need for those so-so translation apps and clunky phrase books into the bargain. The icons themselves are said to be easily recognizable worldwide and have been picked to represent the most frequent translation needs of travellers.

IconSpeak World T-Shirt: Wearable tech taken literally?
IconSpeak World T-Shirt: Wearable tech taken literally?

Here’s what the Travel + Leisure website has to say:

“The Iconspeak T-shirt design  is surprisingly straight-forward: it’s a series of 40 “universal” icons laid out in a grid. By pointing to one or more of the pictures, you can create a very basic message without having to speak a lick of the language. You’ll just have to find someone willing to play T-shirt charades with you. A taste of the icons you have to work with: an airplane, tools, an open book, camera, clock, bus, boat, a person seated on a toilet. Basically anything you need to portray day-to-day necessities.”

So here we have wearabletech going in a more literal direction.

It’s always great to see innovation, but as a seasoned traveler, whatever about the idea of using icons in some curious ritual to communicate with others (and there are limitations), I think the cut and colours of the t-shirts themselves are not that appealing.

Perhaps there you feel there is some potential though. Find the comments…

You can read about IconSpeak’s inspiration on their blog.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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