modal/duality

From street to street the raving Dido roves.
[english]

Semantic Traveler Wristbands

Introduction

Often when travelling in regions like Europe or India, I find it difficult to start off conversations with people, mostly because I'm not sure what languages they know. Figuring out a common language takes longer than exchanging a ClientHello/ServerHello!

Semantic traveler wristbands (STW) is a proposal to fix this problem in a decentralized, inexpensive, and extensible way. Each color of wristband will map to a different attribute of the traveler. The wristbands can be bought at any local store, or made by the traveler using paper, yarn, plastic, or other material. There shouldn't be a need to memorize more than 4-5 of the colors for each region.

Below, "dominant local language" refers to the main language spoken in that area. If there are multiple such languages, such as in Switzerland, and the traveler only speaks some of the main languages, it is up to traveler discretion whether to use a black wristband.

Western European Proposal

Language Swatch Color
Dominant local language Black
English White
German Green
French Red
Italian Blue
Spanish Yellow
Polish Pink
Russian Cyan
Romanian Orange
Dutch Purple
Portuguese Brown
Arabic Gray

Indian Proposal

Language Swatch Color
Dominant local language Black
English White
Hindi Green
Bengali Red
Telugu Blue
Marathi Yellow
Tamil Pink
Urdu Cyan
Kannada Orange
Gujarati Purple
Malayalam Brown
Punjabi Gray

Implementation note

My initial goal was to to differentiate the colors weighted by the number of speakers. That is, the languages with the most speakers should have very distinct colors, whereas it's all right if less common languages use similar colors. I have attempted to formalize this idea by optimizing for differentiability using sequential least squares. However, this is not feasible in general because people don't have access to wristbands of every color combination possible. Thus I restricted to the most common colors, so that makeshift wristbands can be easily made by anyone.

Future work

What about for other, more minor languages? I propose a wristband patterned with the flag of the language's country. This is less convenient but should be fine since it doesn't apply to too many travelers.

Clearly this proposal is troublesome for colorblind travelers. Perhaps all travelers should use "flag" wristbands if possible? What other solutions are there?

It is possible to extend STW to more than just language. Concievably we could have wristbands for hobbies or sexual orientation (possibly not a great idea in some places). Do you have any other ideas?


Can you translate this page into other languages? Have anything to add? Let me know at surya at [this domain name].