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More from Microsoft's TechFest

Although the annual science fair isn't open to the press, company is releasing details on projects on display, including a phone that does language translation on the fly.

Although I am missing getting to see TechFest first hand this year (it's not open to the press), it has been interesting to look at some of the projects that Microsoft is detailing publicly.

In addition to the digital air guitar, mobile Surface and Project Gustav efforts that I wrote about on Tuesday, there are some other interesting ones, including a phone that can help bridge a language divide.

Essentially the "translating telephone" works by converting speech to text, machine translating that text, and then converting the text back to speech. When all works well, it is like having an on-demand language translator.

"The universal translator is one of those dream technologies that has always captivated minds," Microsoft researcher Kit Thambiratnam said in an article on Microsoft's Web site. "It's incredibly hard, though, requiring a combination of technologies that are far from perfect, particularly since we are trying to target free-flowing conversations, as opposed to dictation or structured speaking."

It's not that unlike a technology that showed up in a Microsoft workplace of the future video last year, that showed a whiteboard that could do much the same thing.

And while the translating phone technology isn't perfect, it could be good enough in cases where two parties really want to talk and don't speak the same language.

"We aren't quite there," Thambiratnam said. "But we feel they are good enough for two people to communicate in their native languages, as long as they are willing to speak carefully and maybe occasionally repeat themselves."

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Another project, OneAlbum, is designed to help bring together photos that are scattered in postings by different people across multiple social networks; the idea being that today it is hard enough to manage one's own photos, let alone have any way to categorize and view the photos one cares about that live in other people's albums.

OneAlbum, as seen in the video below, uses image recognition technology to bring together photos of the same people from the same event, regardless of whose album the pictures are in.

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