CES: Handheld translator also sends e-mail

Ectaco International Inc has announced a handheld computer that translates words and sentences between English and other languages and also sends and receives e-mail and faxes.

The first version of the Language Teacher Partner is due to ship in the U.S. and Russia this week. The base language in all of Ectaco's products is English, and the first version released will offer translation to and from Russian. The company will offer other languages as the year goes on, eventually supporting about 30 languages in all, said company Vice President Michael Averbach.

The palm-size unit contains a modem that also allows it to send and receive e-mails and faxes when hooked up to a telephone line. It will also translate an entire e-mail message at the push of a button, Averbach said.

Designed primarily as a translation device, the Language Teacher Partner has 2MB RAM and also acts as a PDA (personal digital assistant), including address book and calendaring functions. It can be connected to a PC using an adapter cable, an option which costs extra.

"We're aiming this at the travelling business executive, but it's also a good learning device," Averbach said. The product won a CES Innovation Award here at the show, and will be launched officially in Russia on Jan. 26 at a press conference in Moscow.

In a demonstration here, the device made a reasonable job of translating an English sentence into Russian. A user at the booth used the mini keyboard to type in the sentence "Where are you going in your shiny black car?" The Language Teacher Partner produced the Russian translation, "Where are you going to be in your gleaming black car?" Like speech recognition products, automatic translation devices rarely achieve 100 per cent accuracy.

The product also includes a voice synthesiser to help users with translation. Future languages to be supported by the device will include Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Malaysian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese.

Ectaco also announced the Universal Translator, a handheld device that also translates words and sentences between English and Russian, but doesn't include the e-mail, fax and PDA features.

Priced at US$199, the Universal Translator can be converted to any of 29 different languages by sliding a different "daughter board" cartridge into the back of the unit. The cards will initially be available in German, French and Spanish. More languages will be added throughout the year.

The Universal Translator uses a touch-sensitive pen-based keyboard which changes automatically when users insert a new language card.

Ectaco products are distributed in Australia by Ectaco-Australia (02-9690 1548), but the company was unable to confirm local pricing or release dates for the Language Teacher Partner and Universal Translator.

Ectaco is on the Web at http://www.ectaco.com.

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