Google Translate Adds Phrasebook To Save Your Most Common Phrases

Google continues to be one of the most innovative companies in the world, developing everything from wearable technology to self-driving cars. And while they’re incredibly busy inventing the future, the Internet search giant also continue to upgrade some of their existing products and services, bringing useful new features to the tools we already use.

Take, for example, Google Translate, the fantastic service that gives us the ability to translate text from more than 50 languages. The web-based version is indispensable for reading foreign websites, while the mobile app is great for translating while on the go. Both versions offer the ability to speak the phrases out loud, which can be a handy feature for those of us who happen to be linguistically challenged. The service can be very helpful for anyone looking to learn a new language too, providing help with pronunciation, spelling and more.

Recently Google Translate was updated with a new feature called Phrasebook, which actually lets you save your most commonly used sentences for quick access in the future. To add something to your Phrasebook simply type in the text you want to use and when the phrase appears in its translated form a small star will appear on the screen. Clicking or tapping on that star will then add it to the Phrasebook for quick referral later on. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, but Google has conveniently provided us with step-by-step instructions none the less.

Frequent users of the Google Translate service will no doubt appreciate this addition, particularly if they are using the mobile app while traveling. It can definitely save a lot of time if you find yourself regularly asking the same questions. In the age of cloud services and account syncing, I would have liked to have seen my personal Phrasebook saved across multiple devices, but perhaps that is something we’ll get in a future update. It would be great to type in important sentences on my laptop and have them automatically appear on my smartphone as well.

Travelers will love Google Translate as it obviously applies nicely to what we do. But the addition of the Phrasebook will no doubt come in handy too, saving time and effort while visiting a foreign land.

[Photo Credit: Google]

Traveling With Food Allergies Easier With Smartphone Add-On

Traveling with food allergies requires an extra measure of caution for those affected. In the past, that caution may have kept them from sampling local fare, a big part of any travel experience. Now, a new smartphone add-on will allow allergy-suffering travelers to test their meal at restaurants, food trucks, sidewalk cafes or any other dining venue around the world.

I have a friend in the UK who has a fish/seafood allergy so severe that if she so much as smells fish, a reaction occurs. If a tiny speck of fish accidentally makes its way in or on to something she eats? Off to the hospital she goes. She is far from alone.

Unique food allergies, sensitivities or restrictions with reactions that can be severe, and even life-threatening, affect millions of people, both children and adults. While traveling, those affected can’t rely on others to help; the down side to them being wrong is just too much of a gamble.Airlines provide special meals for these travelers if notified in advance. Food labels can indicate potential problem ingredients. Asking servers what is in food can help too. But until now, nothing allergic travelers could do would guarantee food safety.

To give allergic travelers a high level of confidence that what they are about to eat is safe for them, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) developed the iTube.

Using the cellphone’s built-in camera, the iTube, along with a smartphone app, runs a test with the same high level of sensitivity of a laboratory. Unlike other mobile devices that detect allergens, the iTube is easy to use and much less bulky, according to the UCLA researchers at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“We envision that this cellphone–based allergen testing platform could be very valuable, especially for parents, as well as for schools, restaurants and other public settings,” says Aydogan Ozcan, leader of the research team and a UCLA associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering in the UCLA Newsroom.

Can’t wait for the iTube to hit the shelves of your favorite gear store? A Food Allergy Translation Card iPhone App may help while you wait, as we see in this video:

[Photo Credits- Flickr user sweenpole2001 and UCLA Newsroom]

Smartphone Room Key Just The Begining

Smartphone technology has become an integral part of travel, bringing GEO tagging applications, instant photo uploading to share with the world, and more. Now, smartphones are set to allow hotel guests to bypass check-in and unlock their guest room door simply by touching the handle.

“We’re able to have the hotel guest download our app, put their username and password in, and then it links the reservation to their mobile devices,” said Ben Robertson, CEO of y!kes in a Hotel Management interview.

The process is simple. On the day of the reservation, connected guests will get a notification saying their room is ready. Step into the hotel’s lobby and the system checks them in. Upon arriving at their assigned hotel room, users simply touch the door handle, which recognizes them automatically and allows entrance.The mobile app works with most smartphones, but for guests with out one, the lock system can also work with a traditional key card. In the future, the Y!kes plans to add capabilities to control the temperature, room lighting and TV preferences.

“We’re making it so that the mobile device really makes things easy for that guest throughout their stay … We can service their needs according to their proximity throughout the hotel,” Robertson said.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user bimurch]

Turn Your Phone Into A Subway Card

If you’ve ever visited one of the more technologically advanced Asian metropolises like Tokyo or Hong Kong, you’re probably already familiar with the easy-to-use technology called RFID. It works like this – instead of paying cash for a bus or subway fare, you hold up a simple plastic card (or a chip embedded in your cellphone) to the ticket gate, and voila! You’ve paid and gotten on your way without pulling a dime out of your wallet.

Wouldn’t it be great if that same technology worked back in the USA, dear reader? Well, now you too can embed an RFID reader inside your fancy iPhone, thanks to a little creative hacking and a DIY company called Adafruit Industries. Using a relatively inexpensive tool kit sold by the company, they’ve put together the nifty video above showing how to install your very own RFID card for use with your iPhone. Not all cities have RFID payment systems, but an increasing number of American cities accept it on their mass transit systems. Care to give it a try? Check out the video above for a tutorial.

5 Reasons Why A Digital Camera Is Better Than A Smartphone For Travel Photos

There is an old adage in photography that says the best camera is the one that you have with you at any given time. This holds especially true in the age of smartphones, which have evolved into solid shooters over the past few years. Owning a smartphone is a lot like having a decent point and shoot camera on you at all times, which has, for good or ill, allowed us to share many more personal moments on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll admit that on more than one occasion I’ve used my iPhone 4S to take some shots to quickly share with friends and family. It is incredibly fun and convenient to take a photo and then immediately send it along to loved ones to enjoy as well. Image quality is, for the most part, more than acceptable and there is a certain level of intimacy that can be garnered by sharing important moments as they happen.

That said, those that use a smartphone as their primary camera while traveling continue to confound me. Yes they are lightweight and easy to use, but they are also lacking in certain fundamental features that a dedicated digital camera will always bring to the table. Those features make them better suited for travel photography and greatly improve the quality of the images as well. I’m not even talking about higher end DSLR cameras either. A good point and shoot will still be a better tool for travel photography than any smartphone.

With that in mind, here are five reasons why this is the case.Optical Zoom
Most compact cameras will come with at least some level of optical zoom but the same cannot be said of smartphones. Optical zoom uses the physical lenses of the camera to manipulate the image and make objects appear closer. This allows the photographer to get clear images of their subjects even when they are a considerable distance away. The higher the optical zoom the further you’ll be able zoom in, which is particularly handy when capturing just the right shot while traveling.

On the other hand, digital zoom will actually make the image itself larger causing a loss in quality in the process. The further you zoom in digitally, the more the image suffers. Most cameras will have a higher level of digital zoom than optical, but I generally avoid using it at all costs. The loss of detail and image quality simply isn’t worth the minor benefits of digital zoom for me.

Battery Life
Another area that a dedicated camera stands out versus a smartphone is in battery life. I own three different point and shoot cameras and each of them is capable of being used on a weeklong trip without having to recharge their batteries. That comes in awfully handy when traveling through remote places where recharging might not be an easy option. In contrast to that, a smartphone is generally lucky if it can make it through a full day, particularly if it is being used as a camera on top of all of its other functions. True, you can get battery extenders for your phone, but at that point you might as well be carrying a P&S camera anyway.

Simply put, a decent dedicated camera will out perform a smartphone in nearly every way. They tend to start up and shoot faster, offer burst-modes, have much better image stabilization, and reproduce more realistic colors. A good point and shoot will capture fast action shots without blurriness and will autofocus more quickly as well. More sophisticated cameras will even allow the photographer to control his or her shutter speed, aperture settings and ISO levels. In contrast, most smartphones have very few options at all and simply let you capture an image that is processed automatically.

I use my smartphone for a lot of things, and even though it has 16GB of storage, it is usually close to being full at any given time. I have music, apps, movies, photos and more on the device, which means if I start using it as my primary camera, I could easily run out of space before the end of a trip. The memory card in a camera on the other hand is generally only used to store photos and video. They also tend to be very reliable, inexpensive and easy to swap out when they get full. True, some smartphones allow users to add memory cards as well, but they are typically not as easy to access from the device and swapping them can often be a real challenge.

More Than The Sum Of Its Parts
Many consumers are under the erroneous assumption that the more megapixels a camera has the better the images will be. This has led some to believe that their old 5-megapixel point and shoot isn’t nearly as good as the shiny new 8-megapixel camera on their smartphone. The truth is, megapixels are just a small part of the equation. The size of a camera’s sensor, quality of lenses, level of optical zoom, flash and other components all play a role in creating the photo. In most cases, a dedicated camera is still well ahead of the curve in each of those areas when compared to a smartphone.

For me personally, my travel photos are the most important images that I shoot with my camera. Not only are they used to compliment my writing, but they are also shared with family and friends. Occasionally one even gets developed, framed and hung on the wall at my apartment. It is important to me that they are of the highest quality possible and for that reason I simply can’t trust a smartphone to capture the images I want.

As someone who likes to travel light I’d love to be able to shave a few pounds off my luggage by leaving my heavier camera equipment at home in favor of using my iPhone. But I’m not willing to sacrifice quality in my photography, so for now I’ll proudly continue to take my DSLR and a point and shoot into the field when I travel. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

[Photo credit: Tom Photos and Pierre Bauduin via WikiMedia]