Handheld translator speaks four tongues

Handheld translator speaks four tongues

The Universal Translator-103, unveiled yesterday at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, can translate phrases from and into English, French, German or Spanish. The device from Ectaco Inc. of Long Island City, N.Y., soon will incorporate phrases from all European languages, and work on several Asian languages is under way.

The 2-inch-wide, 4-inch-high device works much like a digital minirecorder: You push a button and speak. The UT-103 will alert you if it cannot understand what you say. In my brief testing at Comdex, it understood simple phrases such as, 'The store is to the right.'

Once recognition is complete, the UT-103 translates and checks with a context engine to find any odd quirks of meaning. Then its digitized voice speaks the phrase in the target language. Translation of simple phrases takes four seconds or less.

The UT-103 has a 32-bit, 75-MHz CPU, 16M of RAM and 64M of ROM. Its two standard AA batteries are supposed to last up to 36 hours. Users of Pocket PCs soon can buy the software that drives the translation engine, and a version for Palm OS devices will follow.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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