Frustrated Tourists: Your Phone Could Become Your Personal Translator!

By Rachel Krauss March 29, 2011 Comments

Imagine you are a touring a remote town in Spain and need to place an order at a pharmacy but do not speak Spanish. Frequent travelers can all relate to the frustration of trying to overcome language barriers, whether in China, France or Brazil!

A new service being developed in Haifa, Israel, called Lexifone, claims to solve the problem. It utilizes a “two-way smart voice dictionary to enable communication between people who don’t speak the same language – and all it takes is a phone call” explained Israeli creator Dr. Ike Sagie.

Simply put, you can use the pharmacist’s local phone or your personal cellular device and say “ I need medication for my migraine but I am allergic to penicillin.” The pharmacist will then hear the sentence repeated in Spanish and have the ability to respond to the system which will translate his response back to English.

Lexifone can even be used in over-the-line situations. For instance, you can call the Lexifone line and add a restaurant’s number where you would like to make a reservation and Lexifone will set up a conference call. The system will then introduce itself as a computerized translating system to the restaurant and then proceed to communicate that you want to have dinner there tonight. The system is also able to listen to the response, “the restaurant is fully booked,” for example and translate it back to you in English.

Sagie is a former scientist at IMB Research Lab. His combined passion for technology and travel led him to create a “state of the art technology that can be utilized in the hands of tourist – more specifically it’s called “computational linguistics.” Sagie is aiming to have the service on the market by the end of 2011. Lexifone will be subscription-based, similar to Skype. A subscriber can even use Skype to make the calls, in order not to incur roaming charges while abroad, Sagie told NoCamels.  Furthermore, Lexifone will have a local number that can be used from landlines – “it will be an affordable service.”

But what if the system does not understand your accent, or you find yourself in a very noisy area? “If you are in a noisy area you automatically have the option to use the ‘echo system,’” Sagie told NoCamels. ” Lexifone will repeat the sentence back to you in English before translating so you can confirm it has picked up on the right words.”

The service will be available in English and later in Spanish and Italian.

Photo by zoetnet

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