When technology rhymes with creepy
Introducing “Ili”, a (supposedly) great, translating device. You speak in English, the translator delivers the translation into Japanese (and Chinese). The idea is wonderful (it remains to be seen if it truly works … More on that later). Sadly, Logbar, the company that conceived “Ili”, found it amusing to promote it with what many (ourselves included) believe is an offensive, creepy, chauvinist video – see below. They wanted to make the buzz and they reached their goal (more than a million views and counting). Why the outrage? The video shows a British man approaching Japanese women and using the translating device to ask to kiss them.
Look, we all love having fun. Derision and humor are good. Flirting is fun. But not in all situations. Surely not accosting women randomly in the street. By all means, this is sexual harassment and, whether this happens in the streets of New York, Paris or Tokyo, women are sick of it. A few months ago, a “genius” (note the sarcasm here) by the name of Julien Blanc (profession: “pickup artist” …) held a seminar and help a speech that was, by all standards, indecent and insulting for Japanese women, and really all women for that matter. That raised the ire of tens of thousands Japanese residents who signed a petition to bar him from entering Japan (by the way, that individual has been banned from entry to a few countries, including Australia … and counting). Not only is this person offensive towards women, and Japanese women in particular. But he is also hurting the reputation of gaijin men, most of them being good, decent and respectful of womankind.
A potentially great device, spoiled by a disastrous advertising video. We are not used to taking sides in this space. But it was impossible not to.
Back to Ili – which was the topic we initially meant to talk about. It really seems like a great device. If it is as good as advertised, it will be a hit as it will help foreigners in Japan – though hopefully not preventing them from studying Japanese. But, as far as we know, the product is still in the testing phase. And the company’s previous attempt was far from successful. In 2014, they launched Ring which, according to some people, was a flop – some even claiming it to be “the worst product ever made” – see below (at least that second video is hilarious! …). That may be at the very least a bit harsh (though we must admit we have not tested it). But saying their “Ili” video is one of the “worst commercial ever made” would sound just about fair to us.