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Rewriting Life

Portable Translator

A device that accurately translates everyday English conversations into Spanish – and vice versa – should be available by the end of the year, if all goes well at Sehda, a startup company in Mountain View, CA. The translator is a one-kilogram notebook computer equipped with a microphone and speakers that will run a phrase recognition program being developed by Sehda. Other machine translators run on powerful computers and cull through enormous databases of previously translated texts to find plausible translations, says Farzad Ehsani, Sehda’s founder and CEO. The new device instead uses proprietary methods to detect common phrases, such as “kicked the bucket,” then sifts through relatively compact “phrase thesauruses” in both English and Spanish to find paraphrases and idioms that have direct translations. Once Sehda gets the English-Spanish translator right, it plans to build versions of the device for 30 other languages, says Ehsani.

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