Apple wants to turn your iOS and watchOS devices into a universal translator

Remember the language translators in Star Trek? Apple wants to give your iPhone, iPad, and perhaps your Apple Watch such capabilities. The company has filed for a patent (number 9,535,906) for a “mobile device having human translation capability with positional feedback.”

According to the invention, iOS and watchOS devices could include a translator to translate a word or phrase that is in a first human language and that is entered via a first virtual keyboard displayed on the touch sensitive screen, into a second human language. The touch sensitive screen would display the translated word or phrase and a second virtual keyboard would show characters in the second human language, in response to the accelerometer detecting a change in the physical orientation of the device or movement of the device. In other words, once the translation is complete you could move your Apple device to switch between the languages.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that a basic need for most people when traveling in a foreign country is human language translation. You may be riding in a taxi or about to purchase something when there’s a need to translate a phrase or statement. For example, you may want to ask the cab driver a question about the route he is taking, or wish to ask a salesperson about alternatives to a particular item he is presenting you. 

Apple says a two-way, portable, electronic language translation device would be very useful in such circumstances. Such a device would have a display and a keyboard that allows the user to type in a word or phrase in the user's native language. 

The user then presses a button on the keyboard, and the word or phrase is then translated by built-in data processing circuitry of the device into another language before being displayed. With the display showing the translated phrase, the user may then hand the device to the other party who can then read the translated phrase and then respond using the device in a reverse manner but in her own language.