[EAS]Babel fish

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Feb 13 21:01:22 EST 2002

Subject:   Babel fish

The babel fish universal translator that you slip into your ear in
Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is getting closer.
(Our doors haven't gotten very intelligent yet, but then there is
always that risk of obsequiousness. Sorry, you'll have to read the
The device described below does the reverse at this time, converting
spoken English into the spoken foreign language. But it's not so hard
to imagine this function in an already all-digital hearing aid
The present translator's accuracy is said to be 90%. It translated a
question about a charge for extra luggage as "when is the train going
to depart". But since it is geared toward standard phrases, it is at
least unlikely to come up with "My hovercraft is full of eels" from
the Monty Python Hungarian phrase-book sketch.
[And a much delayed thanks to Yale alumnus Andy Bliven (EE '77) who
first introduced me to the Doug Adams books. --PJK]

(from INNOVATION, 13 February 2002)

A Russian company has developed a handy pocket-sized gadget that
translates  English phrases into French, German or Spanish and then
repeats them out  loud in a robotic voice. "This is the first
translator in the world that  understands voice and it was primarily
designed for travelers," says Arkady  Davydov of Ectaco, which
developed the device. "It is more than an  electronic phrasebook
because it recognizes any phrase you say. In the  future we will have
models for all the other languages." Davydov says the  next step will
be adding English-to-Chinese capability by the end of the  year. "Two
speakers, English and Chinese, will be able to communicate live 
without having to use the phrasebook or dictionary," says Davydov. "It
is  going to be really amazing." Developers of the Universal
Translator UT-103  used recordings of more than 700 native English and
foreign speakers to  create a phonetic bank of all recorded phrases,
so the device is capable of  "understanding" English spoken in a wide
variety of accents. It's priced at  $249.95 and runs on AA batteries.
(BBC News 12 Feb 2002)

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