Press Release 118/2009

Mobile Phone as Translator

Software for Humanitarian Uses and for Tourists – Rapid Feedback
English-Spanish translation on the iPhone. (Photo by: KIT)

Scientists from Karlsruhe, Pittsburgh, and the Silicon Valley have developed a speech-to-speechlanguage-to-language translator for the iPhone that is now commercialized by Apple. Using this application, the mobile phone can translate English language into Spanish and back.

Jibbigo, this is the name of the translation software, runs on the iPhone 3GS and comprises a vocabulary of about 40,000 words – a perfect translation and communication device mainly for humanitarian uses, but also for tourists. Use is very simple: The user speaks one or two sentences into his mobile phone and this immediately issues the translation by language and text.

“Jibbigo directly runs on the iPhone and does not need any access to the internet or a server”, says Alex Waibel, Professor of Information Science at KIT and at the Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. “This independence is a decisive advantage for travelers or helpers in humanitarian operations far from mobile radio communication systems. It is in these areas, where there are hardly any wireless hot spots, where Jibbigo is most urgently needed”, underlines Waibel. Another decisive advantage for tourists: No expensive roaming fees arise.

Waibel’s field of research is automatic speech-to-speech language-to-language translation. In 1990 already did he develop the first speech-to-speech language-to-language translator for English, German, and Japanese. He is director of the International Center for Advanced Communication Technologies (interACT), an international research association of four leading universities in this region. “Jibbigo was developed by a new enterprise founded by graduates of the interACT partners at locations on three continents in an international team”, says Waibel. “It shows how well-attuned international teams can perform surprisingly well and rapidly and effectively implement scientific findings from research in practice.”

More than 6000 different languages are spoken in the world. Jibbigo can contribute to making understanding of people easier and better. At the moment, work is being performed on other language pairs.

Further information may be obtained at:

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is a public corporation and state institution of Baden-Württemberg. It fulfills the mission of a university and the mission of a national research center of the Helmholtz Association. KIT focuses on a knowledge triangle that links the tasks of research, teaching, and innovation.

rö, November 04, 2009


Monika Landgraf
Head of Corporate Communications, Chief Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-41150
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
presse does-not-exist.kit edu

Contact for this press release:

Monika Landgraf
Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-21150
Fax: +49 721 608-41150
monika landgraf does-not-exist.kit edu
The photo in the best quality available to us may be requested by
presse does-not-exist.kit edu or phone: +49 721 608-41105.

The press release is available as a PDF file.