updated 02:20 pm EST, Fri November 30, 2007
NEC Live Phone Translation
NEC today revealed a technology it vows will help English travelers in Japan understand the country with little effort. The electronics giant has developed translation software for cellphones that the company claims is the first true real-time translator at this size and should make the process virtually automatic: speaking Japanese into the microphone converts the phrase first into Japanese writing and then into English writing a moment later.
The software is optimized enough to run smoothly on most phones and is tailored to phrases most likely to come up during travel, such as finding directions or recovering lost luggage. In its current form, the software is primarily a proof of concept and not yet ready to be used in practice. It should eventually appear on at least Japanese cellphones and is likely to have both an expanded dictionary and multi-language support that would allow bi-directional conversations that allow both sides of the conversation to receive full translations.