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Speak One Language...Hear Another

Techstination feature for Monday, July 23, 2001

It sounds like something out of Star Trek. Language translation on a portable PC. Bloomberg Bootcamp, a report on today's technology. Imagine taking a trip to a foreign country... .and being able to use a little wearable computer to overcome the language barrier. A Minnesota based mobile PC company called ViA is already testing just such a device. ViA's chief software engineer Jim Albers...

"The vision is that you would wear a PC Stick. As you went through your day or as you worked through your shift with your customers or whatever, a customer would come in who didn't speak English and you didn't speak Spanish. You'd be able to have simple conversations about things that matter, related to your work or your interests. You'd be able to speak in English, they would hear Spanish. They would speak in Spanish, you would hear English. It uses a combination of speech recognition, machine translation of one language to another and speech synthesis so that you hear an understandable and clear synthesized voice speaking in your language.

The wearable computers are being made by ViA and others today. And the translation capability should be available in the near future...

"We will actually be in the field with this system with individuals having to speak Spanish with people in a particular area through this summer. We are also going to be working with Korean later in August."

Albers says the research is being sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. You can find more information at Bloomberg Bootcamp, I'm Fred Fishkin.