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Traveler's Friend

One of the challenges of traveling abroad is trying to make sense of signs and restaurant menus written in a foreign language. A translation device being developed at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA, could ease the alienation. Called InfoScope, the unit consists of a handheld device equipped with a digital camera that takes snapshots of the text the user is interested in. The image is sent wirelessly, via the user’s cell phone, to a remote server. The server identifies what in the image is text, and then translates the words into a selected language. Within 15 seconds, the translation is relayed back to the handheld and superimposed on the photographed scene (photo). IBM researcher Ismail Haritaoglu, InfoScope’s chief architect, says the device could be on the market in two to five years.

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