Blind Lunatic

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The software developed during the Cold War to translate English to and from Russian is said to have turned the English phrase our of sight, out of mind into blind lunatic in Russian. The software is, however, used today in the EU to translate documents, and is highly regarded, though it takes a while to get used to its idiosyncrasies. There's a new Tower of Babel device that allows user to silently mouth a word, which will then be translated into another language.

Apart from the inconvenience of having to wear electrodes, there's a lot in this that sounds good to me. I imagine it would be great to have when visiting a restaurant in a foreign country, or most such situations. You would be able to ask the way, etc, so for tourism and travel I imagine it will be very useful. The drawbacks are also fairly obvious- how will it translate rain/reign/rein, which sound the same? How will it translate tenses into a language, like Chinese, that has none? I think that it will take a very long time before such a device would be much use in a business negotiation or be able to cope with more complex discourse, but in the type of situation where individual words are enough, or basic phrases, it would probably be a help. Mind you, if the taxi driver you're talking to doesn't have the same device, the conversation will take forever as you'll be passing the device across and changing the settings. Besides which, most travel guides have common phrases in them and would probably be quicker. I like the idea, but I think it will probably surprise the designers will find that their idea about using it to have a proper conversation will, like most IT projects, take an awful lot longer than they think.

Categories: General

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