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Silo Universal Translator: Wikipedia Meets Babelfish

It is young and unformed, but promising.

Mar 28 2011, 12:27pm CDT | by

Silo Universal Translator: Wikipedia Meets Babelfish

Imagine you're a doctor, one of the first on the ground after some horrible Haiti-like disaster. You work frantically to save lives, but your every effort is hampered by the fact that you can't communicate with half the people you encounter. This means you have to wait for a translator to continue treatment, or else try to cobble together some working understanding via pidgin dialects. Neither of those solutions is ideal.

This is exactly the situation that motivated Ase Deliri to create the Silo universal translator. The site offers support for 880 language/dialect combinations, including sign language. Just select your language, type in a phrase, and select the language/dialect you want it translated into. Most different tongues come with a "common" option to search across dialects.

The Silo UI is very smooth and quite easy to navigate through. However, the database itself is still very empty. The content for this translator is user-generated, so people actually have to register and upload information to make Silo of any use. It is too early in the game to tell whether that will happen to any significant degree, but there's quite a lot to be optimistic about in this project.

Contributors will have the ability to upload a common English phrase to any one of the hundreds of language/dialects available. They'll be able to tag their phrases with descriptions, such as "local proverb" and "insult". There's also mic/webcam support for uploading audio translations of different phrases.

Silo is smart, too. If you upload a phrase from Chinese to English, and then upload another phrase from Arabic to English, you'll be able to search from Arabic to Chinese for that phrase as well. This is a beta, but Deliri Inc. clearly has a lot of good ideas invested in it already. The real test if this project will be the speed with which the Internet latches onto it. If you'd like to contribute some phrases of your own, you can create a profile here.

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