NEC device is said to translate Japanese on the fly

Once again, Star Trek technologies seem to be making the crossover from science fiction into real life.

Technologies first shown on the television show have eventually inspired real life products, such as the idea of a 'sickbay' which is now widely used among Navy ships.

Although its not exactly clear whether the popular sci-fi series' Universal Translator device was the inspiration for it, Japanese electronics manufacturer NEC is working on just such a device.

As the application is housed on a microchip, it makes it possible for NEC to place it in a small device such as a cellphone.

The translator uses voice-recognition software and is able to translate about 50,000 Japanese words into English. Right now it only works from Japanese to English, and is intended to assist traveling Japanese.

When a traveler speaks Japanese into the cellphone, it displays the recognized words and then attempt to translate it into English, which is then displayed on the screen.

NEC says it would be possible for the phone to then vocalize the translation into English, but that is not being considered due to numerous outstanding issues. First, the company has to ensure precise recognition, and on top of that, the person on the other side of the line needs to know if he or she is being translated correctly.

Regardless, it is said to be the first time a translation service has been made available on a cellular phone without the help of a real person. No time frame has yet been given or confirmation whether the breakthrough would actually be offered to consumers.

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