In its literal translation, 'omotenashi' means 'faceless', and implies an act without superficial flattery, that treats others sincerely and attentively.
Under the slogan of omotenashi, the Japanese government is encouraging its citizens, especially ones in the service sector, to become conversant in English by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At the same time, several organisations are introducing voice recognition and auto-translation systems as omotenashi quality.
In response, Takram's Omotenashi Mask project explores how to aid cross-cultural communication through technological interventions such as accent transfer and facial reenactment. Rather than aiming for perfect communication between two languages, an ideal for which many excellent algorithms continue to be developed, these prototypes capture and translate the more complex and subtle non-verbal cues that are expressed in face-to-face communication.
The project stages a conversation between a Japanese taxi driver and a foreign tourist, which will typify communication during Tokyo 2020. In the conversation, various algorithms are employed to mediate the communication between the two, expanding our imagination of what communication could mean in an extreme, yet familiar future.