Translation App Makes Menus Multi-Lingual
CREDIT: Mireille Boutin, Purdue University
Foodie culture has sent America's culinary adventurers into the deepest regions of their local ethnic neighborhoods in search of new delicacies. Unfortunately for more open minded eaters, they often find themselves confronted with unintelligible menus written in an intimidating foreign language. A new app from Purdue University helps intrepid restaurant goers overcome that language barrier by not only translating the menu, but providing instructions about food allergies in a number of different dialects.
The user types the name of a desired dish into a prompt field in the graphical user interface. The text is translated , and the best possible translations are then listed, along with other information, including pictures and ingredients. The user can then browse the multimedia database to obtain more information about the dish or the ingredients . When appropriate, information and questions for the waiter are suggested.
"You type in the menu listing and the application translates it automatically without talking to a server," said Mireille "Mimi" Boutin, an associate professor in Purdue University's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "It only takes a fraction of a second, you don't need connection to the Internet and it won't empty your battery."
The system even warns people when certain ingredients or nutrients are contained in a dish. When there is doubt about an ingredient's safety, a warning symbol is displayed next to the dish and the device suggests questions and answers, written in both languages, so the user and the restaurant staff can discuss the content of the dish and possible alternatives.
The researchers developed "lightweight algorithms" that operate quickly, have low-energy consumption and require low memory. The real-time translation is nine-hundreds of a second on average, and the application has a memory size of 9.56 megabytes, including its multimedia database, compared to several gigabytes for conventional translation systems, Boutin said.
"People who must follow a medical diet are often reluctant to travel for fear of putting their health at risk," Boutin said.
"The problem with menus is that even if you know the language you may still have to ask questions to clarify what a dish contains. For example, in German, 'Schinken' means ham, but it can be raw ham or cooked ham. If you are going to eat the ham, you might want to know which."
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