From Iceland — If You’re Actually Into World Domination

If You’re Actually Into World Domination

Published June 16, 2006

If You’re Actually Into World Domination

Gaming is all well and good, but, as we pointed out a few issues ago, the new Sony PSP portable gaming unit’s incredible screen resolution and performance make it ideal for business travellers who just want to watch movies or find a pleasant distraction on their way to meetings. Somebody at Sena, the local video game seller, was reading, and pointed out that we didn’t know the half of it. They sent along a future product for the PSP called Sony Talkman.

According to a marketing expert, the Talkman is the fruit of a Japanese computer programmer sitting down in Switzerland and wanting to talk to a girl at the bar, but having inadequate language skills. By the level of programming overkill – by the sheer ingenuity of the software that comes in Talkman, I’m guessing this woman was as beautiful as the programmer was intelligent/homely.

The Talkman is a program designed to quickly teach a person one of six languages: French, German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish or English. (You must know one of these to learn the others.) The program includes a microphone with voice recognition software, and this plays a key role in sorting all the languages out. For example, if you are just learning, you can state what you want to say in the native language, and it will tell you how to say what you want in the language of your choice. If you actually want to study, extensive tutorials help you with that, backed by verbal tests. You’ll speak out sentences, and the PSP will help you with your pronunciation.

The sheer power of this program, to say nothing of its accessibility and portability, is enough that PSP will have, when Talkman hits the shelves, a few million more potential customers. Despite not having Icelandic as an option (and no plans to work it into the program in the near future), I have found a massive pool of customers: Icelanders with strong English skills going to Spain or Italy on holiday and wanting to brush up on either language.

As of now, there aren’t enough positive things to say about the Talkman. Except that I haven’t seen a price. If it turns out to cost less than $200, it will be an excellent purchase. That said, it may not be completely without flaws. While I have been able to brush up on Spanish and explore French and Italian, and even get a taste of German, when I try to learn Japanese, the program moves at too fast a clip. Yes, the Talkman does not allow someone who has never studied a day of Japanese to learn it in a week. That is quite a flaw.

So far, I have been able to watch movies and learn languages with the PSP gaming unit. I have used the machine to check email (though writing responses is a drag) and read the online newspapers while travelling. However, I have yet to find a game that isn’t embarrassing or just plain tedious.

On the same day that the Grapevine received the Talkman, one of the coolest pieces of technology since the iPod, I was given LocoRoco, a gaming sensation from the future, complete with LocoRoco shirts, etc. Don’t let the Spanish-sounding name fool you, or the playfulness of the rhyme: LocoRoco is one hundred percent unpleasant, and vaguely French… the Corbusier theory as justification-for-tedium kind of French.

LocoRoco is a game in which an attractive 2D screen blob is moved about through what looks like wallpaper in a Zoloft-induced haze, along with Zoloft-induced music, towards no specific goal whatsoever.

It is difficult to explain how intolerable LocoRoco is without including the words Teletubbies, sadomasochism, burning hot poker and flatulent otter. Again, French like Corbusier. That PSP has produced LocoRoco and Talkman, and is proud of both, is bewildering and enviable. BC

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