One of my favorite Mac developers, and my favorite shareware game developer, Jeff Vogel of SpiderWeb Software, released a statement about plans to go mobile. Jeff does wonderful, old style RPG’s. If you’re a Dungeon crawl, hack and slash fan, or just enjoy a good story in your Mac gaming, then this news will make [...]
When it comes right down to it, most Mac users spend more time, (then should be necessary), finding software to make the OSX Finder handle basic file operations. You know what I mean, copying, moving, collecting, separating or organizing files. We search for methods to open multiple Finder windows, arrange these windows, tab the windows, [...]
Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast podcast here, hosted at podfeet.com. Every once in a while you find a software developer who consistently creates outstanding products. There’s a lot of great developers out there, don’t get me wrong, but one hit wonders are far more frequent than companies that relentlessly create quality products. One of those [...]
It’s no secret that I’ve used and have been a big fan of BBEdit from day one of my move to the Mac. Text editors have always occupied a lot of my hard drive space, to this day I have at least 6 different text edit apps installed at any time. You can find my [...]
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 Ed Winstead, Ed from Virginia here with a long overdue review of Optimal Layout 2 from independent developer, Benedict Lowndes and available at http://most-advantageous.com. In the summer of 2010 I looked at the original Optimal Layout with the intent of preparing a review. However, I just didn’t feel it was ready and I hated [...]
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 [...]
By Bastian Woelfle: I’d like to tell you about a flickr app, but to be honest right from the beginning, I never was a big flickr user. I uploaded a pic once in a while and sometimes browsed special groups. Last year, I decided to take my photography a bit further and I wanted to [...]
Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast podcast here, hosted at podfeet.com. I’m really excited about the product I’m reviewing today, because I’ve wanted to play with it for ages and for some reason I just never got around to it. The software is iStopMotion from boinx.com. iStopMotion is software that lets you create stop motion movies [...]
Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast podcast here, hosted at podfeet.com. I’m a big fan of efficiency, so I use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible. I can’t stand to let go of they keyboard and reach over to the mouse and slooowwwly drag across the screen to pick an item. When I see someone move their mouse [...]
Hi everyone Gazmaz from the UK here. This week Iâ€™m looking at Sketch a Vector based drawing tool. So what are Vector based drawings? Very basically Vector drawings are mathematically based and will give you an indefinitely scaleable image without losing any quality. A bitmap image which is based on pixels, also known as a [...]
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.
By Steve Beyer: How often do you find that you are downloading or uploading several files simultaneously? Have you ever wanted the ability to start and stop your transfers or maybe even schedule your downloads sometime in the future when you are away from your Mac? Are you tired of waiting for your files to [...]
These are the folks that make Boinx TV, Mouspose, iStopmotion from boinx.com. I tried out the home version but a Pro version is also available. This software is designed exclusively for the Mac.
Fotomagico 3 is a tool that helps you easily generate slideshow presentations. Very easy and intuitive to use.