How long until we get a babelfish iPhone app?

I think the future is awesome right now and lately I've been amazed at all the stuff I can do with my laptop on the road (like edit an image on my home desktop and upload that to a web server while on vacation in the middle of nowhere) and my iPhone (the mantra "there's an app for that" is really true) that I had an obvious idea the other day while watching a film with subtitles.

The iPhone is great for finding food and points of interest while traveling, it's been indispensable on my last few trips. While finding national parks and a place to get dinner helps out a great deal in unfamiliar territory, the language barrier is still with us. The new iPhone 3GS has a microphone and voice recognition. While I know it's a leap that current iPhone chipset performance and API may not allow, I'm hopeful that this feature is coming soon.

Where Imagine landing in a country, using your iPhone to figure out your location and find your hotel and somewhere to eat. Now imagine you need to ask for help from someone on the street so you launch a babelfish app, pick the required language and speak into your phone mic while it displays the results. Here is me asking "Where is the library?" into an imagined app.

This can't be too far off, right? Even if the recognition wasn't that good, you can get a lot of information out of a few key words and figure out what someone is asking about.

Of course, to make it work really well, it'd also need to translate answers as well, so could get english text results for the answers you get, and that might just be beyond the scope of even current high powered desktop computers.

Still, I have hope we'll see an app like this someday in the next 5-10 years that works on portable devices.

 

8 Comments

  • I seem to be the guy who’s always replying to you with “I can do that on my android phone!” and, well, here I am again. There are at least 2 different apps that do this: http://www.cyrket.com/search?q=Translate
    The only feature missing is Speech to Text, but the Text To Speech side, in the translated language is covered. And I expect we’ll see Speech to Text with the next Android release. Some of the ADCII apps are using it.

  • Gosh that looks an awful lot like my app Big Words!
    :)
    Thanks for the tip, I’ll get to work on the translation feature. Should be ready in abvout 5-10 years ;)
    -Dom

  • What would you even do once you got to the library? ;)

  • Considering the photo contains about 50% of my entire Spanish language knowledge, I think once I get to the libary I would ask patrons if they like the beach and if I could go to the beach. Then I would ask for a hard boiled egg, and with that, I would be at my limit for speaking the lanugage.

  • Yep, that’s Big Words alright. Big Words was my only option for trying to illustrate the idea.

  • Matt… don’t know anything about apps but I can help you with more Spanish:
    Tres tacos con carne, por favor.
    Burrito con pollo asada, por favor.
    Tengo un Corona, por favor.
    Try them in Mexican restaurants, they work well!

  • These are also helpful:
    Más cerveza, por favor.
    Donde está el baño?

  • I saw a talk by Ray Kurzweil before the iPhone came out where he had text-to-speech running on a Nokia N82. He does a lot of work with OCR and text-to-speech for blind people and he had software small enough to run on a mobile platform that could take a picture of a page of text and within a few seconds, start reading it to you.
    In fact, a quick Google and here’s his company selling English to Spanish & English to French text-to-speech. The future is now…!
    http://www.knfbreader.com/products-kreader-mobile.php

Comments are closed.