No matter how high-tech a phone is, a new service called "Lexifone" lets users communicate with just about anyone, no matter what language they speak. NY1's Technology reporter Adam Balkin filed the following report.
If you had to make a call to someone from another country who speaks a foreign language that you don't understand and doesn't understand English, imagine how that call would go.
Well, it actually doesn't have to be quite as disastrous as you probably just envisioned, thanks to a new service called "Lexifone," an automated interpreter that works on any phone - from a smartphone to a rotary phone.
"Once we have your phone number with us, we recognize you when you call us, so we know your native language, and then you can choose from any number of foreign languages," says Itay Sagie from Lexifone. "Once we connect you to the other person, you say a sentence in your own language - let's say English. It'll say 'one moment please,' and then you'll hear it in let's say Russian. When the Russian person talks back, you'll hear it in English."
If you're conducting business where every word counts, such as where mistaking "one thousand" for "ten thousand" could be a costly error, there is a verification mode where you'll hear what you say repeated back to you in English before it is translated.
The service also does face-to-face translation, so that if you're sitting across the table from someone who speaks a different language, just plop down your smartphone.
Alternatively, if you're sitting next to a land line with a speakerphone, just have a normal conversation and "Lexifone" will translate everything being said.
Developers also say the software will actually learn your habits.
"We have what we call linguistic optimization - that's our IP, that's our patent - which means that we try to enhance the accuracy based on what's being said but based on the situation you're in, the type of customer you are, so we try to do it context based," says Sagie.
To use the service, head over to www.lexifone.com, where you can find out either how to get a subscription or pay per call for around 10 to 30 cents a minute.
There is also an app version for Android phones, and an iPhone version is due out any day.