Handheld Device Lets Officials Translate on the Go


By Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

Published: 29 August 2013


From The Boston Globe…


Article Excerpt: “MALDEN — Police Officer Keith Wilson was in the middle of his shift one recent day when his radio crackled with an alert. A woman had disappeared. He rushed to the house on Clifton Street, where he discovered the woman’s worried husband, her sister-in-law, and an increasingly common problem in this immigrant city: They were speaking a language the officer did not understand.


In the past, Wilson might have muddled through with gestures, asked a neighbor to translate, or waited for an official government translator to show up. But this time, Wilson called his sergeant to bring him “the box,” a handheld mobile device the size of a garage-door opener, which, with the press of its single button, links authorities to live translators in less than a minute — wherever the officer happens to be."


Link to the full story here.


Link to a video demonstrating ELSA here.


InterpretAmerica’s take: There is a big push currently underway by many technology startups to provide interpreting services on consumer-grade smart devices. While this is a welcome development that is helping improve communication and expand the interpreting market, in the case of first responders, these platforms (smartphones, tablet computers or whatever Silicon Valley dreams up next) can prove cumbersome and fragile. After all, police, firefighters and paramedics often work in dangerous situations, in the dark and in bad weather.


That’s why we were impressed to learn about “the box” or ELSA from RTT Mobile Interpretation. Just press the button and you are connected to an interpreter in seconds. It appears rugged, mobile and simple to use—just what’s needed in an emergency, when conditions are usually anything but ideal and where interpreters, frankly speaking, wouldn’t really want to be.


This is a case where simplicity wins out over multiple cool features and where human interpretation delivered by smart technology helps keep people safe. Now, just imagine if ELSA were connected to Google Glass, providing the interpreter with a video feed as well. Not farfetched at all. Are you listening RTT Mobile?

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InterpretAmerica, LLC was established in 2009 to provide a national and international forum for the interpreting profession.

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