SIGMO brings us closer to the Star Trek Universal Translator


There is a new red hot campaign on our crowdfunding partner site Indiegogo. In just four days a small device called SIGMO has raised over $100k and still has 25 days left to go. The promise: SIGMO lets you communicate in more than 25 different languages without learning them.

I think this is another proof that the vast majority of people don’t want to learn languages. You might have read my piece on the grim future of language learning, if not here is the link. Over the years I have been involved in the language learning and teaching space it became obvious to me that people learn languages because they have to for their career or in order to achieve another goal to that extend.

Otherwise we will do anything to avoid this task, even if it could make our life easier when travelling abroad. I always argued that as soon as there will be a viable alternative to language learning, people will jump on it. SIGMO could be part of this first wave of devices.

SIGMO matches the current group of lifestyle tech devices. It is small, looks really stylish and works with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Actually pretty similar to what Samsung and others are trying to do in the space of smartwatches. Clearly, SIGMO is part of the wearable technology group as you can put it on your belt, wear it around your neck or on your wrist.

SIGMOWhat is does is similar to Google Translate Conversation Mode about which I wrote in January 2011. Like in Star Trek you press a button and then speak in your language. SIGMO subsequently translates the sentence and plays the translated audio. Next you can press the second button to translate the answer your conversation partner gave and get the audio in your language.

SIGMO uses the apps, technology and data connection that comes with your smartphone, hence it will only work when you have a data connection which can be tricky (and costly) in some countries when you are travelling. According to the Indiegogo campaign, one of the major goals is to make SIGMO available offline, as well.

To get a SIGMO early you need to back the project with $50 or $65 if you would like to have the aluminium version. The team estimates that the first SIGMOs will be delivered five months after the campaign closed which means end of February 2014.

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at