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Cheap translations, but not replacement for humans

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Posted June 14, 2013
This photo provided by Lexiphone shows the Lexiphone app displayed on a mobile phone. Israeli startup Lexiphone says it has come up with a way to overcome language barriers when conducting international business: an automated service that provides nearly instant translations between English and seven other languages with nothing more than a telephone. (AP Photo/Lexiphone)

This photo provided by Lexiphone shows the Lexiphone app displayed on a mobile phone. Israeli startup Lexiphone says it has come up with a way to overcome language barriers when conducting international business: an automated service that provides nearly instant translations between English and seven other languages with nothing more than a telephone. (AP Photo/Lexiphone)

An Israeli startup says it has come up with a way to overcome language barriers when conducting international business: an automated service that provides quick translations between English and seven other languages with nothing more than a telephone.

Lexifone allows people to get translations without paying hundreds of dollars for human interpreters. The service translates spoken conversations in real time, which Lexifone says is an improvement over free, Web-based services that are typically limited to typing in text.

Itay Sagie, the company’s vice president of sales and the son of its founder, said Lexifone lets small businesses “pick up the phone and call Russia or China.”

Preliminary tests by The Associated Press show, however, that while the service has promise, Lexifone doesn’t offer a major leap forward in translation technology. Star Trek’s universal translator will have to wait.

People have been able to test out Lexifone since October. The service formally launched in the United States this week, and Lexifone plans to devote nearly $5 million to market it.

Although a phone-based service similar to Lexifone has been offered since November by NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest cellphone carrier, that service works only with Japanese, Korean and Chinese. Lexifone translates between English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Russian and Mandarin. The service costs 15 to 40 cents a minute.

Read more at: Phys.org

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