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‘Smart’ face mask from Japan translates 8 languages, boosting communication in ‘new normal’

Engineers have designed a smart facial mask that can help not only amplify voices, but can also translate speech into eight different languages.

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(TMU) – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow with no end in sight in the foreseeable future, face masks have become an essential part of our daily lives. As a result, the market for protective face coverings has exponentially grown – with the demand for cloth, neoprene, disposable, reusable, valved and filtered masks continuing to grow.

And now, engineers have designed a smart facial mask that can help not only amplify voices muffled by the myriad protective masks, but can also translate speech into eight different languages.

This latest innovation is the work of Japanese startup Donut Robotics, which saw the new masked reality as a great opportunity to unveil its new high-tech mask that can boost communication and connectedness while also helping to make physical distancing easier.

The C-Face Smart Mask is connected to an integrated microphone that connects to the wearer’s smartphone through an app, and offers a suite of features. Not only can it amplify the wearer’s voice, but it can also transcribe dictation and translate speech into eight different languages (Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese).

And while the white plastic and silicone smart mask isn’t meant to offer protection against the coronavirus – as is clear from the breathing holes in the mask – the C-Mask is designed to be perfectly compatible with existing standard face masks.

The C-Mask relies on translation software that Donut Robotics originally developed for its Cinnamon robot, an AI-enabled bot that would assist international travelers with useful information and help them navigate Japanese airports .

But after the coronavirus pandemic virtually halted most international travel and led to the closure of Japan’s airport, the startup pivoted to applying its technology to face masks so that workers in various industries including healthcare could confidently and clearly communicate behind face coverings and barriers.

“We were running short of money and wondering how to keep the company going,” Donut Robotics CEO Taisuke Ono told CNN.

With face masks of various types flying off the shelves in unprecedented numbers, the company decided in June to monetize their new technology by launching a crowdsourcing campaign on Japanese fundraising platform Fundinno. The campaign was a major success, with 28 million yen ($265,000) in only 37 minutes.

“It was very surprising,” Ono said, “because it would usually take three or four months to get that kind of money.”

After another successful crowdfunding campaign in July, the company was able to raise another 56.6 million yen ($539,000), which the company plans to use to adapt their Japanese-focused software to the international market.

Ono believes that the first wave of 5,000 to 10,000 masks should be available in Japan by December for between $40 and $50, with plans to extend operations as soon as April 2021.

Ono hopes that with people struggling to abide by social distancing norms recommended by public health authorities, the new Bluetooth masks can allow for efficient communication in locales like office buildings and hospitals.

“We still have many situations where we have to meet in person,” he said. “In this new normal … the mask and the app are very helpful.”

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Good News

Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces

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Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.

And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.

The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.

The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.

At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.

When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.

Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.

The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.

The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.

“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.

“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.

His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.

Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.

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Animals

Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber

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An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.

In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.

“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”

As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.

Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.

“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.

Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.

So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.

“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”

As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.

Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.

“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”

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Animals

Binx the Cat, Who Survived Florida Condo Collapse, Found and Reunited With Family

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Amid the tragedy of last month’s collapse of a South Florida condo building, there was a tiny bit of good news when a cat named Binx, who lived on the ninth floor of the Surfside building, was found safe and returned to his family.

“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the lives of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a Friday press conference, reports NPR.

Levine Cava explained that a volunteer who feeds street cats in the area recognized the cat near the building before bringing him to an animal shelter, where it was then identified.

Gina Nicole Vlasek, the co-founder of the The Kitty Campus rescue group, posted on Facebook that a black cat had been found near the rubble of the group before it was brought to the shelter on Thursday night.

“We are so grateful to be able to help in any small way,” Vlasek said.

“All we needed was a ray of hope in this tragedy,” she continued. “Today was one of the most amazing days.. one of the survivors came to see the cat and to determine if it was her families cat and IT WAS!”

The mayor said that animal control workers are continuing to work to recover any pets that may have survived the horrible collapse.

The 12-story Surfside condo collapsed on June 24. At least 79 people have been confirmed dead, with 61 additional residents remaining unaccounted for.

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