You Are Now Free to Move About the Globe

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Did you know that there's an instant translation war going on? There is, and it's raging hot this week.

Earlier this week, defense giant Raytheon (NYS: RTN) showed off an English-to-Arabic two-way translator app for Android phones. With it, you can hold a conversation with natives of Iraq and Afghanistan without knowing any Arabic at all, and presumably all at military-grade levels of precision and security. And like I said, it runs on bog-standard Android phones so there's no specially made million-dollar hardware involved.

Google (NAS: GOOG) already had a tool like that, but only for conversations between English and Spanish. While useful for Yanks vacationing in Latin America, it's hardly a key to unlock the Tower of Babel. But today, Google Translate's conversation mode moved a little bit closer to becoming a global tourist's best friend.

With the addition of 12 more languages, the permutations of possible interlingual conversations jumped dramatically. Now you can speak Russian and receive French like a European diplomat, or shoot the bull in Mandarin Chinese and get answers back in Japanese -- or Polish, Korean, or Dutch. The possibilities are endless. International relations have never been simpler.

Of course, I won't be satisfied until the tool supports my native Swedish tongue, right before adding Navajo, Klingon, and Sindarin. But the progress is undeniably impressive. I'd imagine many more languages falling in line quickly once the back-end gets sophisticated enough. Translate itself already supports plenty of variety, from Afrikaans to Icelandic and Basque. They're just missing from the conversation mode, and often don't have voice models at all, neither in nor out.

As far as I know, Apple's (NAS: AAPL) new sweetheart, Siri, doesn't do the interpreter thing yet. I'd imagine her doing it in a future update, though. Given the trans-Atlantic nature of the Windows Phone system, now that Nokia is becoming the far-and-away largest adopter of the Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) solution, that software should join this budding arms race soon enough. And my daughter will grow a beard before Research In Motion offers a BlackBerry translation service, no matter how useful that service would be to business travelers. That's just how RIM seems to roll.

Mobile phones are transforming our way of life in myriad different ways. Besides becoming our personal breed of Babelfish, they're also set to replace the credit cards in your wallet. Watch this free video report to learn all about it.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, Raytheon, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Apple, NXP Semiconductors, and Google, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concisebio, follow him on Twitter or Google , or peruse our Foolish disclosure policy.

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