Tag Archives: innovation

Google creates awesome translating app for Android

Google has just announced an update to the translate app for their Android mobile platform. The update includes an incredible (but still experimental feature that translates) spoken conversations.

So if you’re in Spain you can open up this app on your phone and speak English to it. The application translates what you said and responds in spoken Spanish. Amazing!

Conversation mode in Google Translate for Android

The feature is still experimental but has a lot of promise. The best way of understanding it is by viewing this demonstration video.

Google Goggles – Search with your camera phone

Google has just released a new service. It is called Google Goggles and it runs on cell phones (not many people know that Google produces a mobile phone operating system).

Basically, you take a picture with your phone and the service gives you information about what you’re looking at. In this example the service recognizes the Golden Gate Bridge and returns information on it.

Google Goggles example

It’s a very early version of the service, but it also works on books, business cards, paintings, logos, and even wine labels! Take a look at the official site to get a better idea.

I’ve read a review of the service and it seems to work reasonably well. Amazing!

It feels a lot like magic! This could also be quite scary. Imagine a day when people can find your Facebook profile by scanning you with their phone!

Computer program generates realistic image from freehand drawings

Believe it or not a computer program called PhotoSketch generated the image on the right.  Based on the freehand drawing and labels on the left!

This is pretty amazing stuff.


The program processes the input image and searches tagged images for the required components. It can then seamlessly combine the components into an output image.

This is a very early version of the technology and some of the output images aren’t great. But it is still very impressive (project page has more examples).


The world’s biggest fire extinguisher – a 747

747 fire fighting plane

Wired has this article about a 747 that has been converted for fighting fires. Sounds like a joke, but this is real.

A company spent $50 million converting a 747 into a fire fighting aircraft. It can drop 75,000 litres of flame retardant on fires. That compares very favorably with the 4,500 litres that the normal fire drop planes can carry.

Size isn’t the only innovation. Normal air drops on fires rely on gravity to expel the water for fire retardant. That means you get one drop and then have to go back for more.

This bad boy has a special pressurized system that allows for several drops. That helps when you’re carrying such a huge payload.

The major disadvantage of course is that this monster isn’t as nimble or flexible as the smaller aircraft and helicopters.

TV can’t represent all visible colors

gamutDo you know what “the gamut” is? Until I read this article on laser digital-cinema projectors I didn’t either.

Apparently “the gamut” is the range of colors visible to the human eye.

Modern TV sets can only produce about 50% of the colors that we are able to see! Traditional cinema film comes in at 60% of visible colors – a big improvement but with plenty of room for further improvement.

The image alongside shows a representation of the gamut and the subsets of that space that we routinely see. There are plenty of colors that can’t be represented on our screens.

The article discusses an ingenious system using laser film projectors that is able to produce images with up to 90% of the gamut. Very cool – I can’t wait to watch a movie using that system.

Diagnosing by smell

The Economist has this interesting article on an emerging field called ‘olfactory diagnostics’. Basically diagnosing ills by analyzing the air exhaled by patients. It has already been shown that more than 3,000 compounds are regularly exhaled, excreted or exuded from the human body.

By analyzing these compounds and their relative quantities a surprising amount of information can be gained. For example specially trained dogs have been diagnosing bladder cancer for years. However, advances are now being made in order to automate and increase the diagnoses possible.

It is plausible that in future incredible amounts of information could be gleaned through analysis of the air we exhale. Imagine the privacy concerns if, for instance, your employer could learn about your eating habits and possible health problems by analyzing the air you exhale at work.