WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers have created an application that enables cell phones and other portable devices to translate foreign-language food menus for English speakers and could be used for people who must follow restricted diets for medical reasons.
"You type in the menu listing and the application translates it automatically without talking to a server," said Mireille "Mimi" Boutin, an associate professor in Purdue University's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "It only takes a fraction of a second, you don't need connection to the Internet and it won't empty your battery."
Before entering a foreign country, the user would download a region- and language-specific configuration and database. From then on, the system can operate without a network connection.
"The problem with menus is that even if you know the language you may still have to ask questions to clarify what a dish contains," Boutin said. "For example, in German, "Schinken" means ham, but it can be raw ham or cooked ham. If you are going to eat the ham, you might want to know which."
The user types the desired dish into a prompt field in the graphical user interface. The text is translated, and the best possible translations are then listed, along with other information, including pictures and ingredients. The user can then browse the multimedia database to obtain more information about the dish or the ingredients. When appropriate, information and questions for the waiter are suggested.
"With Albert Parra Pozo, a graduate student who is fluent in Spanish, we were able to develop and implement this system on the iPod Touch for English speakers traveling in Spain," said Boutin, who specializes in signal and image processing. "Our tests indicate that our system yields a correct translation more often than general-purpose translation engines. Moreover, it does so almost instantaneously. The memory requirements of the application, inc
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