Here’s something that travellers might find handy if they find themselves in a bind.
Microsoft has quietly developed an app that offers translation of typed text, optically recognised text (i.e. using your camera) and voice while using the power of its Bing platform to do the translation for you. Sure, there have been a few apps out already but they tend to either require payment or are limited in the number of availabile languages. Translator for Windows Phone 7 offers a total of thirty five other languages for translation from English (thirty six if you include English but who would want to do that?).
I gave the text recognition using the camera a go and these are some results:
Can’t help but notice it got the word “Japanese” wrong (at least according to my rusty knowledge of the language from twelve years ago). That said, the Kanji for “Korean” turned out correct and the Katakana for the western words translated properly.
My French at this stage must be quite terrible. That said, the software does a good job to give you an understanding of the text even if it does sound a little odd (i.e. “stop listening by the helmet”).
Same section in the Panasonic headphone manual but this time in German and translating to English. Bit of a different result with a few of the German words unable to be translated but I reckon there is enough there to get a gist for the message conveyed.
By no means is this a comprehensive test of the software but more of a cursory overview of its abilities (I’d leave that to the budding linguists out there). Computer-aided language translation is quite an art and while things have come a long way there is still plenty of room for further improvement as can be seen. Still, it’s amazing what is no being achieved on mobile devices when coupled with the power of the cloud.
Anyway, Translator is free in the Windows Phone Marketplace and worth a play if you find yourself in situations where you’re language skills may let you down but need a little help to get you over the line. The only “gotcha” may be the necessity of a data connection to make it work which could be expensive if you’re overseas and using data roaming.