Mobile device convergence is accelerating like crazy, with a new breed of smartphones packing enough power to run an impressive range of software. And some of these mobile applications are getting pretty freakin' amazing - take Ray Kurzweil's kReader for Symbian, which allows blind or illiterate folk to point their phone camera at printed words and have them spoken aloud. Sakhr has gone a step further with an Arabic Spoken Translator for Blackberry devices. You speak English or Arabic into your handset, it transcribes, translates and speaks your phrase back in the other language, breaking down the language barrier in one fell swoop.
We used to think of convergence simply as the coming together of the many little devices we used to carry in our pockets - phones, cameras, music players, PDAs and the like. But now that all those basic functions have been combined into a single handset, they're beginning to develop some new and very specialized abilities through installable software apps.
Translation software is hardly new - in fact, it's been around for long enough to improve to a reasonable level of accuracy. Likewise, speech to text and text to speech engines are also approaching the point where you don't want to throw them at the wall in frustration.
The genius in Sakhr's Arabic Spoken Translator is that it combines these abilities into one easy-to-use piece of software that sits on your phone, in your pocket, wherever you happen to be.
Simply speak into the phone in English, and the machine prints the text in English so you can confirm it heard you right, then translates it to Arabic script and says it out loud. It also works in reverse. Extremely easy to use, it's expected to be a very handy bit of software for soldiers and security personnel to carry about in Middle-Eastern war zones.
Extrapolate this idea out to a muti-lingual spoken translation engine, and you've got yourself an application that any global traveller would find extremely useful in a whole range of situations. And, as it improves in speed and accuracy, there's no reason why you couldn't build an application that puts a short-delay translation on both parties' voices in a real-time phone conversation. Mobile phones that break down the language barrier... Ain't this an amazing time to be alive?
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