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New iPhone App Translates Images in Real-Time

If you’ve ever been to another country and struggled with reading signs and menus, a new iPhone app called Word Lens might be just what the doctor ordered. Word Lens is an augmented reality app that can actually translate text seen through your iPhone’s camera. Just turn on the app and hold up the phone so that the text you want to translate appears on your iPhone camera’s viewfinder, and Word Lens will pick out the words, translate them for you and display the translation right on your iPhone’s screen.

The app itself is free, but all the free version does is let you play with or erase text on images seen through your iPhone camera.  The actual English-to-Spanish dictionary that gives the app its translation capabilities is $4.99.

Even better, the app doesn’t have to be connected to the Internet to do this.  So, it’ll work even in areas where you have no signal and you don’t have to worry that using the app while you travel will result in obscenely high cell phone bills.  $4.99 is definitely a reasonable price for something that will help you out in a foreign country without racking up data charges. Read more

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Google’s App Now Translates as You Talk

Google just rolled out a new update for users of its translation app for Android phones. But this isn’t just any software update: the upgraded app now has a “conversation mode” feature that translates as you talk!

For example, let’s say you’re grocery shopping in Mexico. Suddenly, you find you’ve blanked out on your high school Spanish and can’t remember how to order what you want from the deli. With Conversation Mode, you could press a button, ask for what you want in English, and have your phone translate it into Spanish and read the translation to the salesperson. Then, the salesperson could answer back in Spanish, and the app would translate it into English. No more quizzical looks, no more hanging your head in shame at not being able to make yourself understood. Brilliant! Read more

Google New Translation App Brings Speech-to-Text Translation to Your Cell Phone

Google’s new translation app aims to turn mobile phones that run on the Android operating system into universal translators. The app is capable of translating text written in one language into speech in another, and vice versa. So, for example, if you were in a foreign country and needed to find a bathroom, you could fire up the app and say “Where is the bathroom?” Your phone would then translate the phrase for you, display the text in the foreign language, and could also read the text out loud in a computerized voice if you desired.

New App

Currently, the app can only translate speech in English, Mandarin and Japanese, but Google expects to release more languages shortly. Text-only translations are available in 50-plus languages including Icelandic, Slovenian and Swahili. The LA Times notes that the translations “are often less than perfect,” and until someone actually builds a protocol droid like C3PO from Star Wars, real live human interpreters will always have a place. However, Google’s translations will no doubt improve with time, as Google feeds its translation system with ever-increasing amounts of information.

According to the New York Times, Google also plans to introduce image analysis to Google’s mobile translation app. So, not only will you be able to type or speak the phrases that you need to have translated, you can also use your phone’s camera to take a picture of say, a foreign-language street sign and have the words on the sign translated for you.
How has Google managed to outpace other automated translation services in such a short time? In the New York Times, Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media explained why Google is so well-suited to the job:

“Machine translation is one of the best examples that show Google’s strategic vision. It is not something that anyone else is taking very seriously. But Google understands something about data that nobody else understands, and it is willing to make the investments necessary to tackle these kinds of complex problems ahead of the market.”

Medical Translation App

Ideally, every medical patient would have access to an interpreter who speaks their language. However, these services aren’t always available, and when doctors and patients can’t communicate effectively, the consequences can potentially be devastating.

Late one night, Brad Cohn and Alex Blau, two medical students at the University of California in San Francisco, shared stories of language barriers they’d experienced while trying to treat patients and wondered, “Why isn’t there an app for that?” Inspired, they decided to build one.

In an article on the University of California website, Blau explained:

“Ninety percent of diagnoses come from the patient’s self-reported medical history, so the ability to communicate is critical. Time is not an asset doctors or patients have. You need that information when you need it.”

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