Seoul to expand AI-based translation service for foreign subway passengers

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : March 14, 2024, 14:13 Updated : April 22, 2024, 09:22
Courtesy of Seoul Metro
[Courtesy of Seoul Metro]
SEOUL -- Seoul's subway operator will expand its artificial intelligence-based translation service that can help non-Korean-speaking foreigners communicate with subway workers. The real-time translation service uses a transparent organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display which shows spoken words translated and converted into text. The AI-based service that provides 13 languages including English, Chinese, and Japanese, will be installed at 11 stations in the capital city.

Seoul Metro has demonstrated the real-time translation service at Myeong-dong Station in central Seoul for three months starting in December 2023. During the test period, the service enhanced its capabilities by incorporating AI to learn the names of subway stations and the map of subway lines in Seoul and its satellite cities. To resolve translation obstacles caused by noise inside the station, noise-canceling technology was also adopted.

Seoul Metro announced that the translation service will be installed at 11 stations frequented by foreigners. The service areas include Gangnam, a southern district famous for rapper Psy's global hit song "Gangnam Style," Itaewon, a district near central Seoul with many clubs and bars, and Hongdae, the western Seoul district of music and culture.

"We will further upgrade the AI-based translation system's convenience and usability by offering additional services in addition to simultaneous conversation services using AI technology," Seoul Metro CEO Baek Ho said in a statement on March 14. The OLED display also provides fare guidance and information on luggage storage lockers and subway fares. These additional services can be accessed in 13 languages through a touch screen.

According to the subway operator, the number of foreign passengers for the first six months in 2023 reached 12,729, up 898 percent from the same period a year ago. Myeong-dong Station was the most visited area by foreign passengers. At the shopping district filled with department stores, tourists can enjoy traditional Korean street food like Dak-kkochi, a spicy grilled chicken skewer, and Tteokbokki, a cylinder-shaped rice cake dish with South Koreans' famous hot chili paste.
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