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PDA based translator for field use


June 4, 2004

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The Douglas Adams' classic The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy features an amazing creature called a 'Babel fish' that once placed inside the ear, translates all incoming languages allowing the protagonist Arthur Dent to converse freely with aliens around the galaxy long after the Earth has been destroyed by the Vogons to make way for a hyperspace-bypass. Technology has some way to go before it catches up to Adams' imagination, but PDA based translation devices such as the Phraselator, which provides one-way phrase-based voice-to-voice translation, are now becoming a commercial reality.

The Phraselator works by matching the input phrase with a pre-recorded output phrase that is played through a speaker. The device can be used in this way to provide information, give directions or and ask simple questions in another language.

Using a rugged high-end PDA, the Phraselator is designed to perform in extended temperature ranges, noisy environments, full sunlight or full darkness. While the phrase recognition technology will work on any high end PDA, Phraselator's noise-cancelling microphone and separate background noise level microphone are needed to get recognition up to the optimum level in a high noise environment.

Users can also develop a specific phrase library using the Module Builder and the Phraselator has about five times the power of standard PDAs in its speaker output for phrases that require a little emphasis - 'Stop or I'll shoot" for example.

Initially developed by Marine Acoustics for DARPA (US Department of Defense Advanced Technology Procurements), the Phraselator was used in Afghanistan during 2002 and a new company has been formed - VoxTec - with the goal of expanding commercial applications to include humanitarian assistance, medical, security, travel and law enforcement.

Systems are configured to meet the contextual requirements and are priced on an application basis. Visit www.voxtec.com for more information.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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