Image: Travis

APEX Insight: As long-standing tech giants from Samsung to Sony erected massive displays of their ingenuity at last week’s CES, 800 startups gathered in Eureka Park about a mile and a half away, with booths a fraction of the size. But bigger isn’t always better, so APEX Media walked the halls of Eureka Park, looking for the next big thing in PaxEx. In the third installment of “Eureka!,” we bring you Travis the Translator, a handheld device capable of reducing language barriers on board.

Dutch startup Travis the Translator was at CES last week, with a small handheld device capable of translating 80 languages in real time. The company’s goal? “To make everyone understood because we believe everyone has the right to be understood,” says Travis US representative Robb Selander. “We want to bridge and break through a lot of the language barriers that exist out there.”

Until last month, one of these barriers was between KLM and sister airline Air France, whose pilots and crew had been experiencing some communication issues when having to work together. The airlines are currently conducting a trial among their employees, and also on board to help flight attendants communicate with and understand passengers. “A lot of the flight attendants do speak multiple languages, but there are 7,000 different languages in the world,” Selander notes. “So in a place like the airport, pretty much every language in the world is represented to some extent throughout any given week, if not any given day, so there is a great need for it there.”

“A lot of the flight attendants do speak multiple languages, but there are 7,000 different languages in the world.” — Robb Selander, Travis

However, without a SIM card or a Wi-Fi connection Travis is limited to just 20 languages in offline mode, and those aren’t nearly as robust as when connected. For the in-flight environment, where connectivity still isn’t a given, crew can record up to 20 statements that they know they might say and store them on the device. “‘Would you like a gluten-free meal?’ for instance,” Elissa Glorie, Travis’ manager of International Affairs says, adding, “We have improved our offline languages significantly in the past six months, and it is something that out software team is continuing to work on.”

Although the device was originally created with consumers in mind, the startup has received so much interest from businesses in the medical, military, travel industries, and more, that it is planning to address industry-specific needs with customized solutions. “2018 is the year that we are going to address that,” Glorie says. “We are going to try and come up with more flexible solutions for each industry.”

Valerie is deputy editor at APEX Media.