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Archive for May, 2010

In this excellent debut young adult novel Paolo Bacigalupi creates a futuristic world, inhabited by vivid characters. In the beginning, the protagonist, Nailer, breaks ships for scrap and oil. Nailer lives in a hut on the beach with his abusive father and dreams of sailing on the wide ocean in the sleek clippers he watches zip by.

After a hurricane, Nailer finds a broken clipper marooned on the wreckage of a flooded city. The crew is all dead, except an unconscious girl, who is adorned with far more wealth, in the form of jewelry, than Nailer has ever seen…

The plot revolves around trying to get the girl to safety. Themes of loyalty, family, climate change, disparity between income groups, genetic engineering and the environment are explored. What makes this YA novel remarkable is that it explores many themes and so fully realizes a world, yet it doesn’t ever get bogged down in description. Indeed, I found this difficult to put down.

For more reviews of Paolo Bacigalupi’s books please click on the Science Fiction category to the right.

This review is cross posted on Amazon.

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Until recently, I’ve thought of real time speech translation tools as perhaps becoming available within a few decades. During the last week, an experience and two articles have caused me to revise my estimates to within a couple of years.

The experience involved using Dragon Dictation on an iPad, in a noisy store. (The free software works on an iPhone and iPod Touch too.) I spoke at normal speed. Much to my surprise, without any training, the software transcribed my speech flawlessly and without delay!

Later in the week, I read that Google has added a translation feature to Google Goggles that allows users to snap photos of text with an Android phone and the software will translate that text. Currently it only supports translating phrases from English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish but more languages are being added. The posting I read can be read here: http://tinyurl.com/32eeocb

Then I read an article in Wired about Google’s efforts to create a voice to voice translator, based on phrases. Actually a translation will follow this path:

voice-text-translation-voice

Although some people see these technologies as leading to the extinction of more languages, the article’s author believes that such technology will have the opposite effect because it will obviate the need to learn other languages and the need for a linga franca. The article is here: http://tinyurl.com/yb5bxjq

In short, in nascent form, the pieces of a super, real time translator program are already available and they are all free.

[A technical note: All of these technologies actually process speech and translations within clouds. In other words, a mobile device sends the voice or images to vast systems to be analyzed. Without a network connection, none of this will work.]

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