Last weekend was an exciting weekend for me. My last contract ran out on my iPhone 4 and I could finally purchase a new iPhone 5. (It’s these little Apple things in life that make me smile some days) . After picking up my new iPhone I had to find a case I liked. I [...]
Today and tomorrow Sparrow for the iPhone is on sale for $.99. After Thursday it goes back to $2.99. What better reason for me to download it today than a sale. I use Gmail’s client for the iPad, but I was still using the Mail app on the iPhone. That has now changed. I am [...]
Last week I received my Logitech Clock Radio Dock S400i to replace an old clock radio I’ve had since the 90′s. I am very impressed and quite satisfied. I’m using my iPhone 4 with the dock and for the price tag of $79.99 retail, I’d recommend it for anyone that needs a clock radio, charging [...]
When I purchased my new iPad last week I was wondering if the iPad warranty from Apple was the best choice, or if a third party company such as SquareTrade might be the best route to take. So I contacted Vince Tseng from SquareTrade and asked him a few questions. I’ll let you make your [...]
The last week I’ve been testing a business card scanning and cataloging app called WorldCard Mobile. The app is part of the entire WorldCard family of business card scanners and software including, WorldCard Pro, WorldCard Color, WorldCard Office, and the software, WorldCard License. WorldCard also makes document scanners and the iPhone app, Snap2PDF. The idea [...]
Last week I sang the praises of a new application in development for searching your Mac and your cloud called Found. The problem is that Found is still in a beta stage and to even use the application you have to get on a waiting list. I was contacted by another developer that told me [...]
In case you’ve been locked away in some Apple-less environment for the last few months, you’ve probably heard about Scanner Pro from Readdle. This iOS app allows you to scan any document, receipt, whiteboard or paper note with your new iPad or iPhone. Then upload your scans, saved as PDF files, to Dropbox and Google [...]
Yes, I understand your concern. Adobe Reader on an Apple product is somehow, just not right. But give this one a try before you bash it. Adobe Reader of iOS is free and I found it painless to use. It does signatures and and basic annotation on PDF documents. Here is a review from today [...]
When the iPhone 4S hit the shelves of retailers, one of the main reasons to upgrade was the promise of a voice-activated artificial intelligence service called Siri. While there are several other improvements with the device, such as a better camera, faster processor, and increased networking options, Siri has fell flat with many users and doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when you actually use it.
It wouldn’t be a review if we didn’t start with the problem to be solved. Let’s say you’re on vacation in a foreign country, and you hope to be able to talk to the local people, but as it turns out you don’t know any other languages than your own. There’s a lot of options for you.
You could buy a book of phrases and look like an idiot thumbing through it while the person you were hoping to talk to wanders off impatiently. You could drag your Mac around under your arm so you could launch the dashboard app from Systran that will translate what you type into it – but we know how Tim feels about dashboard apps.
How about something on your iPhone? That would seem quite a bit more modern and efficient. Enter SpeechTrans, created by the Nuance folks, well known for their amazing speech dictation software Dragon. I had great fun testing this out with friends of mine, and it’s got the real idea of the Star Trek Universal Translator.
When you open SpeechTrans, you’re prompted to choose what language you want to translate from and to. SpeechTrans supports 15 languages including German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Dutch and Arabic. Once you choose your languages, you get a split screen. the top half is where you’ll be entering your words in your own language, the bottom half will be for the person with whom you’re trying to communicate. On the top half, you can either type in a phrase, or simply touch the record button and record your own voice. A spinning gear comes up for a few seconds, and then SpeechTrans types into the top half what you said. A second later, two things happen – SpeechTrans types in the 2nd language what you said, AND it speaks out loud what you said.
Now your coconspirator simply taps the record button on the bottom half and answers your question in their own language, and it translates back to yours in text and in voice. it’s really really cool. But. I’m afraid the accuracy wasn’t anywhere near the high 99% speech accuracy that Nuance promises. I tested it with two native Mandarin speakers, a woman who learned Spanish in South America, a Chinese man who said he spoke Japanese, and a Belgian who speaks both French and German fluently.
I asked each of them a question regarding how long they’d worked in their current company, and sadly it often got the number completely wrong. Sometimes it was more subtle in its errors, where the other person told me they totally would have gotten the point of what I was trying to ask them. One of the oddest errors happened when SpeechTrans correctly interpreted the voice input and typed out the Chinese perfectly, but then when it translated that now typed text to English it was incorrect. That surprised me because it would seem the speech recognition is the really hard part, isn’t it? You’d think typed text translation would have been the easy part.
One very unique feature of SpeechTrans is that you can post to your Facebook wall in a language you don’t even know. I had to try it a couple of times to get the English correct, I can’t swear the Dutch I posted was correct. When you post, it puts up the input and output language on your wall. You can also send to Facebook chat, Bump it to someone, or post to Twitter with SpeechTrans, might be hard to keep track of how many characters you’re typing though – how does that work with Asian language characters?
I posted to my Facebook wall in Dutch hoping that Knightwise from Belgium would respond, and he did. Here’s what he wrote: “it sounds ABOUT right … the translation factor adds some “demented factor” to it .. but we get the idea. I would not make any international peace agreements with this though .. things might get lost in translation”
SpeechTrans is on special right now for $20, and there’s also a version for those with hearing impairments for $50.
But wait, isn’t there another alternative? How about Google Translate – free on the iPhone? I decided to give Google Translate a whirl, assuming it would be a really poor alternative and would help me realize how powerful SpeechTrans is. First of all Google Translate doesn’t allow you to share with Facebook or any other social network, doesn’t bump, and doesn’t have the two pane window for the conversation to occur.
However, Google Translate has an interface that I actually like better. You have a much vaster choice of languages, 15 of which are available through voice, the rest must be used by typing into the phone. That’s the same number of voices, except that Google Translate gives you 3 kinds of Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin or Mandarin/Taiwan), and 4 for Spanish (Spain, Latin America, Mexico and Argentina). I had wondered that with SpeechTrans, my limited amount of understanding about language was that the dialects especially in Chinese were pretty extensive, and my roommate in college from Argentina would CONSTANTLY argue with her boyfriend from Cuba about how he mispronounced things in Spanish.
Google Translate is more intuitive in how it lets you speak to it than SpeechTrans. In SpeechTrans you have the two red record buttons, but when you touch them, you get a spinning gear for a while, which causes most people to start talking right away. They’re supposed to wait until this weird red symbol that actually means stop comes up on screen, and then you click the stop button when they’re done. In contrast, Google Translate simply puts “speak now” on screen when you hit the microphone button, and then when you stop talking for any length of time it assumes you’re done. I vastly prefer the way Google Translate does this part of the job.
When you’ve translated your voice or text, there’s a button that allows you to enlarge just the text so you can show it to the person you’re trying to communicate with. When you’re ready for them to speak back, you simply click the button to reverse the languages.
As far as accuracy, my more limited tests with Google Translate were not any more successful than SpeechTrans. While people could understand the basic gist of what I was trying to say to them, there were frequent errors that caused confusion at the least, and insult at the worst.
Bottom line time. If you need a translation device for travel, I think either of these products would get you by, but please don’t make business deals or ask for your girlfriend’s hand in marriage with either of them. I’m not sure SpeechTrans is worth the $20, when a free alternative from Google is available. If SpeechTrans had much higher accuracy, more languages, a better interface, it would be worth it, but it doesn’t win on any of those points. Go with Google Translate.
By Chris Marshall: According to the iTunes Store the Rugby Arena – The 2011 World Cup Guide (Unofficial) describes Alexandru Halmagean’s application like this: Rugby Arena is the ultimate app for rugby fans. This guide to the Rugby World Cup 2011 has a complete schedule, live scores, and boards. You’ll be well-prepared for the RWC [...]
The MacReviewCast Episode 265 This week we look at Toast 11, Griffin Technology Survivor, Kuboku, Freeware and more. I want to thank you for downloading and listening to the podcast. We have the best in Mac hardware, software and websites reviews. We have a lot of great folks on today’s episode with their reviews and [...]
When I finally was able to order my new Verizon iPhone 4 this spring, I wanted to try several cases and styles with my iPhone and see if I could actually choose one or two cases that would stand out above the rest. To this point, that has not been an easy task. The iPhone [...]
I just received the new Candy Stylus and Pen from Hard Candy Cases for review. The concept is practical and the design is beautiful. Here is the idea, an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch stylus on one end and a refillable black ink pen on the other end. Cover the torpedo shaped pen in an elegant [...]
Hog Bay Software just released PlainText – Dropbox text editing for iPad, iPhone,
and iPod Touch. PlainText is a simple text editor with an uncomplicated, paper-like
user interface. Unlike the default Notes app, PlainText allows you to
create and organize your documents in folders and (optionally) sync
everything with Dropbox.com.
– Folders keep your documents organized.
– Paper-like interface keeps the focus on your text.
– Dropbox sync means your documents are always available.
PlainText is also an infrastructure project for Hog Bay Software. They’re
now working on a new version of WriteRoom for iOS that will be based
on the PlainText design. Once that’s done, they’ll start work on a new
version of TaskPaper for iOS that’s based on the PlainText design.