Medical translation aided by emerging smart phone apps

In an astonishingly short period of time we have graduated from cell phones to smart phones. Aptly named, the latter devices make their predecessors seem like the communication equivalent of the game Pong.

In the last year, with the spread of the iPhone and competitors like the Android, applications for smart phones have exploded, including development of a number of promising translation tools. Apple’s AppStore alone boasts more than a dozen translation applications. Two that deserve special attention are those from Jibbigo and PicTranslator.

The Jibbigo application converts English speech into Spanish or the other way around. Users speak into the phone in one language and the phone answers with the translated version. PicTranslator employs the phone’s built-in camera. You simply take a picture of the text you wish to translate, choose the desire language, and the application does the rest. It can also help with guidance in pronunciation.

The tools are not designed specifically for healthcare environments, and they are in no way a replacement for trained medical translation professionals. But it is easy to see how such applications could prove useful—and perhaps even critical—in circumstances where time or resources did not afford medical staff any other option.

As mainstream technology continues to evolve, we should be on the lookout for those tools that can help medical personnel ensure that they are always saying what they mean to their patients.

Check out these links for demos of Jibbigo and PicTranslator.

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