All posts by resourcesforlife


Real-Time Language Translation with Google Translate App and Smartphone Camera

The World Lens app by QuestVisual was introduced in 2010 and used a typical smartphone camera to convert printed text in real time. Here’s the video announcing the product:


Google recently integrated the technology in their translate app, so now with a single app you can perform a variety of translation tasks. With the World Lens app, additional languages required an in-app purchase. The Google product will include 36 languages for free.


Learn More

Here are some resources to learn more about the technology.

MotionSavvy UNI Portable Sign Language Interpreter System


A team of deaf technologists and innovators have launched a company called MotionSavvy and developed a product called UNI — a portable sign language interpreter system available for preorder on IndieGogoThe product has been reviewed by MedGadgetTechCrunch, and Time Magazine.


Real time translator systems have been developed for spoken language, but this is the first portable device that is designed to assist with sign language communication. Here are some of the challenges the developers will face:

  • Hands Free Operation. In some of the company videos and literature, the device user is shown holding the device in their left hand (for example) and using sign language with their right hand. However, sign language typically requires both hands for many signs.
  • Wide Area Analysis. The UNI is based on LEAP Motion technology which analyzes hand gestures in a small area above a viewer. Sign language often utilizes a wider space around a person.
  • Body Analysis. Sign language uses the body. The LEAP Motion technology only tracks hand movement.
  • Placement. The placement in 3D space of a sign relative to the signer also has meaning. The LEAP Motion technology doesn’t seem to account for this.
  • Facial Expressions. Often a facial expression can change the meaning of a sign significantly. For example, if I point, and purse my lips (as if whistling) this means something is close. However, in describing something far away, a person will open their mouth and use a different facial expression.
  • Similar Hand Shapes. Some sings use the same hand shape, but the hand location and orientation change, and this changes the meaning of the sign. The LEAP Motion technology will have a difficult time identifying these nuances.
  • Hidden Signs. In some signs, the fingers are hidden from the viewer, but because of a familiarity with sign language and the context of the conversation, one knows what’s being signed. For example,  when a person is hungry, they will take their open hand as if holding an invisible cup, touch their chest in the middle, and move their hand down. This is the sign for hungry. This is done quickly, and any software designed to analyze finger placement won’t be able to visually see the fingers for such signs.

Despite these limitations, the technology does show promise. As long as the signer limits their language to vocabulary recognizable by the device, it should serve in a simple capacity. Presumably, future versions of this technology, many years from now, will place a camera on the floor or at a sufficient distance to see the upper torso and surrounding area of the signer. Perhaps some kind of x-ray technology could be used for ‘seeing’ hands regardless of any obstruction.


Below are videos about the product, the team, and their development process.

Below is a video about the technology incubator center called the LEAP-AXLR8R where MotionSavvy is based.

“The LEAP Axlr8r is a unique program designed for developers, designers and founders interested in reinventing industries through gesture based technology. We will provide design guidance, access to industry expertise, access to LEAP engineers for software and hardware development and business design expertise to help turn your product into a massively scalable business that changes the way people interact with the world forever.” (source)

LEAP Motion is a device that tracks hand motion for use in many different applications as shown below.

Rosetta Stone Language Learning Software

Walter Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal has stated: “Rosetta Stone may be the next best thing to living in a country.” You’ll find other praise for the product used heavily in their marketing materials. The Rosetta Stone System is used by the State Department, NASA, and 9,000 other public and nonprofit agencies. It’s used by over 8,000 corporations and more than 20,000 educational institutions.

Yet Rosetta Stone has also drawn criticism from people, including higher education academics and professors who specialize in computer assisted language learning. This leaves language learners at a loss to know who to believe.

This 2013 article featured on the Modern Language Association website addresses some concerns: “Is Rosetta Stone a Viable Option for Second-Language Learning?

One concern about Rosetta Stone is that a common set of images and base vocabulary are shared across different languages. For example, in the Spanish lesson below, one would expect to see culturally relevant images of people and places where Spanish is predominantly spoken. The man shown in the lower left picture has the Hindi “Om” written on the building behind him (perhaps at a temple). This image would be helpful for those trying to understand the context of the Hindi language and associated culture. However, in a lesson about Spanish it is out of place and disorients the learner.

Image from the Rosetta Stone Demo interactive advertisement on 22 August 2014.
Image from the Rosetta Stone Demo interactive advertisement on 22 August 2014.

There’s also been a concern that the program oversimplifies language learning by focusing only on vocabulary and simple dialogs without providing a substantive introduction to the grammar and phonetics of a language.

It may be that those who praise the product and those who criticize it are both wrong:

  • The supporters of Rosetta Stone make lofty and glorified claims about what it can do – stating that the product is all you need to become fluent in a language.
  • The critics of Rosetta Stone seem to be arguing that the product is completely worthless.

In reality, most language learners will rely on many tools and resources to learn a language. The more tools and experiences you have, the more deep and rich your understanding will be of a language and its culture(s). A mix of classroom learning, interactive software, and immersion in a foreign country are all helpful for anyone learning a language. Mobile apps, handwritten flash cards, YouTube videos, Skype sessions, and audio recordings are all examples of tools to consider.

The best way to evaluate Rosetta Stone is to try out the free online demo. The real question a language learner needs to ask is whether or not this or any learning tool is worth the cost for what it offers.

Here are a few apps and online resources to use as a comparison:


The Conditioned: Inspiring Video About Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho in São Paulo, Brazil


Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho was homeless in São Paulo, Brazil, for nearly 35 years, and became locally known for sitting in the same spot and writing every day. In April 2011, he was befriended by a young woman named Shalla Monteiro. Impressed by his poetry and wanting to help him with his dream of publishing a book, she created a Facebook Page to feature Raimundo’s writing. Neither could have expected what happened next. Click here to view the larger original video.

See more about Raimundo and his poetry on his Facebook Page maintained by Shalla:

This short film uses footage from a documentary about Raimundo shot in São Paulo in 2011 and 2012, along with interviews and scenes filmed in Goîana, Brazil, in January 2014.

This is one of 10 stories celebrating Facebook’s 10th anniversary and a decade of connections made possible through the platform. See the rest at


SIL International NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems



SIL serves language communities worldwide, building their capacity for sustainable language development, by means of research, translation, training and materials development.

One of the valuable resources offered by SIL are various computer fonts, such as the Doulos SIL font set.

You can download the the Doulos SIL font set from the SIL website.

There’s a maintenance release of the font for use with Firefox, but most people will use the official release.

Apple Mac computer users can expand/open the zip file, and then double-click on the font to have it installed using the Apple Font Book utility. Windows users can use a similar method to install the font. It is also compatible with Linux.

Teaching Chinese as a Second Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Instruction – Helen Shen – University of Iowa – Peking University – Book and Video Instruction CD DVD



Teaching Chinese as a Second Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Instruction by Helen Shen is an exceptional resource for instructors of Chinese. The resource was developed by Professor Helen Shen of the University of Iowa and published by Peking University. Additional works by Shen are available on Amazon.


The book consists of eight chapters and covers basic and advanced knowledge of Chinese teaching. It includes information about Chinese characters,radicals,words,and vocabulary and then talks about orthographic knowledge acquisition and instruction. It also deals with cognitive and psychoIinguistic models for Chinese vocabulary acquisition, and provides many frameworks for CFL vocabulary instruction.

Video Companion Software

The video companion software provides excellent teachings samples for illustrating various instructional methods and techniques.

Software Installation Instructions

The StarForce Video Player is required to view the companion videos. It is located on the installation CD/DVD. Follow these instructions to install the player and view the videos.

  1. Insert the installation disc.
  2. Double click on the StarForce Video Player .exe file.
  3. An initial message will indicate “Checking disc…”20140310mo-demo-video1
  4. You’ll be asked if you want to install a necessary driver. Click Yes.
  5. You’ll be asked to provide the Disc Key. This is printed along the top of the disc. Enter the key and then click Next.20140310mo-demo-video4
  6. You may get an error message indicating that emulation software is running.
  7. Click Retry. If that doesn’t help, try restarting the computer. Make sure you are using an Administrator account on the computer. Try another disc. Eventually you should end up with a video menu similar to the one below.


Carl Djerassi, chemist who developed the pill, to speak at UI symposium March 8


(Article Source: Iowa Now)

Author and chemist Carl Djerassi will give a keynote address at the symposium “Pill and Pen: Contraception and Unwanted Pregnancy in Literature and Popular Culture.” The symposium will be held Friday, March 7 through Sunday, March 9 in various locations across the University of Iowa campus.

There is no registration requirement. All presentations, lectures, and screenings are free and open to the public. Students and scholars are encouraged to attend.

Djerassi will speak on “The Rise and Demise of the Pill” Saturday, March 8 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. A full schedule of events and list of speakers can be found on the symposium website.

At the impressive age of 90, Djerassi, who has received more than 30 honorary doctorates from universities around the world, is a highly entertaining and provocative speaker. His combined expertise as a scientist and writer will introduce the symposium with what organizers say will be “an unusual and highly sophisticated keynote.”

Djerassi is an Austrian-born scientist who fled his country after the invasion of Hitler-Germany and eventually found a new home in the United States. One of the most prolific scientists of the 20th century, he has authored more than 1,000 research papers, five novels, eight plays, a book of poetry, volume of short stories, and a docudrama.

The chemist and author is currently a professor emeritus at Stanford University where he has been teaching since 1960. Djerassi likes to refer to himself as the “mother” of the birth-control pill for his role in creating a man-made form of progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone in females.

The Pill and Pen symposium is sponsored by the Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and the departments of Chemistry; Cinema and Comparative Literature; and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Other sponsors include the Global Health Studies Program and the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies in International Programs, and the department of Pharmacology in the Carver College of Medicine. The event is also made possible by the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the Honors Program and the Center for Human Rights in the UI College of Law.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, contact Waltraud Maierhofer in advance at or at 866-465-1607.

Pleco Chinese Dictionary for iOS and Android Version 3.0


On 5 February 2013, Pleco announced a new version of their Chinese Dictionary software. After 2 years in development, the long-awaited version 3.0 the Pleco Chinese iOS app is finally here. An updated instruction manual with a transition guide and lots of screenshots is available here.

Major features in 3.0 include:

  • Totally redesigned user interface, with a more modern sidebar-based navigation and far fewer annoying / unnecessary toolbars. Lots of smaller refinements too, like draggable scrollbars, and of course it’s now all been fully optimized for iOS 7.
  • Totally redesigned typography, with lovely new English (Adobe Source Sans Pro) and Chinese (VMType 信黑体) fonts and a more consistent look for all dictionaries. We also now support the option to choose an alternate Chinese font and offer three of them as add-ons, along with a free add-on font to cover rare (Unicode Extension B/C/D) characters.
  • Vastly improved search: faster (multithreaded), merges results from all dictionaries together (so no more flipping between them to make sure you’ve caught all the results), frequency-sorted, and much more intelligent about full-text (partial words, variant spellings – ‘color’ will now also get you ‘colour’ and vice versa).
  • Vastly improved definition screen: dictionaries all appear in a single scrolling list so you don’t have to flip between them, the former 字 button features have all been merged into the main definition screen now, there’s a new-and-improved character component breakdown database (which has the added benefit of being free) and other new functions like lists of word breakdowns, an experimental thesaurus (download the database for that in Add-ons). And best of all, a pan-dictionary example sentence search – works for English and Chinese, aggregates every example sentence containing a particular word (even if it’s not the primary headword) and presents them to you in a single scrolling box.
  • Audio, most notably text-to-speech: example sentences now have buttons next to them to hear their audio; by default this uses iOS’ built-in text-to-speech system but since that’s not very clear or pleasant-sounding we also have a nicer one available as a paid add-on. Text-to-speech also works in the document reader and will read along in a document for you showing you the definition for each word as it goes.
  • Cantonese support: options for Cantonese search (in Jyutping), display (Jyutping or Yale), and audio (system TTS or a new Cantonese audio module); basic Cantonese transliterations are included in our built-in PLC dictionary, another one is available as a paid add-on and lots more stuff on this front is coming soon.
  • Much better iPad optimization, most screens are now either appropriately minimized popups or have been expanded to iPad-friendly two-panel mode.
  • History now has iCloud sync (with the ability to view a merged history list from all of your devices) and keeps track of words looked up in the document reader.
  • Rewritten low-level database engine to greatly reduce our app’s virtual address space usage – we were never very heavy on RAM, but we used to use a lot of address space loading data files, and now we don’t; this should vastly improve our app’s stability.
  • Document reader has just about every new feature people have ever asked for: pagination, full-text search, document-specific font settings, support for direct tap-lookups in a bunch of new formats (PDF/DOC/EPUB most notably), a hugely improved Web Reader engine (much faster / more reliable), a Web Reader “reading mode,” clipboard history, recently viewed document history and the ability to have several documents open at once.
  • File manager now supports Dropbox, though this is incomplete and about to get a lot better thanks to a Dropbox policy change (one that lets us access your entire Dropbox instead of just a single app folder).
  • Settings have been overhauled to be maybe not quite so terribly confusing as before – we actually got rid of more than half of the old settings and restructured them to make a bit more sense.
  • User dictionaries now support full-text search (enable in Settings / Manage Dictionaries).
  • OCR now has an optional crosshairs mode (little buggy but fun to play with and downright freaky with clear text on a really fast device), support for PDFs in still image mode, keeps track of recently viewed images and attempts to return you to your last place in them. (lots more OCR stuff coming in 2014)
  • Flashcards now have iCloud sync (though a bit experimental / buggy since iCloud itself is), some improved options for card creation (easy access to Card Info from the duplicate prompt and an “Update Text” option in Import), an option to easily install a premade list of HSK cards, and the much-requested “new cards per day” option; again, this is an area that will see a lot more improvements in 2014. We’ve also made the basic import / export / backup / organization features available even without purchasing the flashcard module, useful for (among other things) getting your flashcards off of a malfunctioning iPhone before reinstalling Pleco.

As far as an overall philosophy, aside from ‘make it look nice’ and ‘make it work well,’ something we’re starting to pay particular attention to is the idea of moving beyond individual dictionaries; we no longer want Pleco to be a dictionary viewer but rather an aggregator of reference data. So the moves towards merging dictionaries are a first step towards ultimately merging the data they contain in a more in-depth way too – we’ll preserve each dictionary’s distinct features, there wouldn’t be much point to offering them if they didn’t, but we’d like to do a better job of combining data where appropriate (stuff like links to variant characters / other characters with the same pronunciation, for example), and we’d like that philosophy to permeate some other parts of Pleco where it’s currently lacking (like flashcards). This may also include incorporating more data from other sorts of reference works and databases, some perhaps even that we develop ourselves, and using that data in more ways than we already do (all sorts of interesting things you can do analyzing a dozen different definitions for the same word).

New Dictionaries

6 in this release:

  • Oxford Chinese Dictionary (the big one), with full traditional character support (merged from the new traditional version) – $19.95
  • 汉语大词典 (the really big one) – this one’s ‘early access’ as we’re still cleaning up the jianti conversion and adding in data from the new ‘Supplement’ volume – $59.95
  • 廣州話方言詞典 from Commercial Press – popular monolingual Cantonese topolect dict, horrible Guangdong romanization changed to delightful Jyutping/Yale, first of 4+ licensed Cantonese dicts we’re working on, ‘early access’ due to some minor Cantonese app bugs which should be fixed in 3.0.1 – $19.95
  • 多功能成语词典 from Sinolingua (Chinese-Chinese) – $19.95
  • KEY Chinese-English dictionary, 280k entries based on the one from the PC app – $19.95
  • 中山 C-E/E-C Medical Dictionary (from FLTRP) – also ‘early access’ – $59.95

Key Features


Look up unknown Chinese words ‘live’ using your device’s camera, or tap-lookup words in a still image.


Look up words by drawing them on the screen; very accurate and tolerant of stroke order mistakes.


Huge and growing collection of licensed dictionary databases, including titles from Oxford, Longman, FLTRP, and many other major publishers.


Recordings from two different native speakers for 34,000 words, with text-to-speech (for sentences) and Cantonese support coming soon.


Insanely powerful / customizable system, making it extremely easy to add new flashcards from dictionary entries or import pre-made vocabulary lists.

Document Reader

Look up words in a document simply by tapping on them; currently supports text files and web pages, EPUB / PDF / DOC support coming soon on iOS.

Incredibly Fast

We use a custom-built database engine so fast that it can search and process results from a dozen different dictionaries before you’ve finished lifting your finger off the screen.


We’ve been in business for over a decade, and we offer free upgrades and free platform transfers whenever possible; we have users who bought the Pocket Oxford Chinese Dictionary from us for Palm Pilot in 2001 and are still able to use that same purchase on their brand-new iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy in 2013 without ever having had to pay an upgrade fee.

Abdul Chohan, Director at Essa Academy, Receives Distinguished Educator Award from Apple


Abdul Chohan, Director at Essa Academy, has nurtured teacher and student relationships by creating an anytime, anywhere learning environment.

Under the guidance of Abdul’s visionary leadership, Essa, once a failing public school in the UK, has seen a fundamental shift at the heart of its culture.

The dramatic redesign of Essa’s learning spaces and the introduction of an iOS learning environment has led to Essa’s best achievement increase ever.