Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Translation Glasses

Real-time babble
  [vote for,

A pair of glasses similar to a pair of bi-focals with a translucent strip across the bottom of the lenses. A small directional microphone is installed on one of the arms. A thin cable attaches the glasses to a wearable PDA-type system that uses voice recognition software to translate speech into a language of the user's choice and outputs the translation to the strip at the bottom of the lenses.

The person with whom you're talking would need a similar contraption, but it would make real-time, face-to-face conversation possible for people who do not understand each other's languages. Eye contact could be maintained; no messing with those little keypad translators or phrase dictionaries. Maybe an optional module with a small speaker could be included so that the unit translates your replies into the target language.

Pretty much everything exists for this to work: translucent HUDs are available for industrial applications, PDAs are getting more powerful and flexible, speech recognition software available (though not very good) and translation software is improving steadily. The device would need a filter that recognizes your speech and outputs the translation to the speaker rather than the screen. If that's a stretch, an ear bud microphone would do the trick.

Fester, Jun 17 2003

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       I could see this being useful at the UN as a replacement for the bulky headphones used to listen to translated speeches. Text would scroll along the bottom of the delegates' view, while excerpts of the speech could be accessed via a scrolling wheel on the frame, displayed at the top of the view.   

       This would be useful if the delegate missed or misunderstood a part of the speech, and could go back to check if the US speaker really did just suggest that we all go screw ourselves.
sambwiches, Jun 17 2003

       I think that's pretty much how the UN does things now, at least at the big conferences. This would make the face-to-face meetings easier. It could still involve human translators: microphone picks up what's said and the translated text is piped into ear buds, the whole thing works on WiFi. Of course, they may be doing this already... makes too much sense.   

       The UN translators amaze me. I speak 3 languages (which makes me rare as an American), but I can't translate on the fly the way they do and compensate for the languages' grammmatical and cultural differences or subtleties.   

       This application would be geared toward travellers; directions to hotels, ordering food and getting antibiotics are within the capacity of most translation software, but I wouldn't trust it to deal with nuke reduction treaties. "I told him that we're firm on the missiles in the Urals, he told me that my hovercraft is full of eels. What gives?"
Fester, Jun 18 2003

       Yes, this is a nice idea. I am waiting for the day of the universal translator phone, why hasn't anyone done it yet? I set my phone to English, my spanish friend sets his to spanish. When I dial him my phone recognises his is Spanish, and the onboard processer and speech translation software on my phone plays back his words in English. If the audio/processing is not advanced enough on the phone, it can be intercepted and done via a third party with huge processors and the latest algorithms, just like viewing webpages through Babelfish...
cevilthedevil, Jun 18 2003


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