NFAIS 2009: Engaging the Global Digital Native: Transforming Technologies

The second panel of the day was titled Engaging the Global Digital Native: Transforming Technologies.

Daniel Albohn of Sony was up first and titled his talk Trends and Developments in e-Reading and Digital Content : The advent of electronic paper displays.

He started by talking to us about the technologies behind e-book readers (Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle). Their first device was launched in 2004 in Japan, but the US consumers were genuinely interested in the product. He showed us the history of these devices and where they’re going with. On a sad note (personally) color probably isn’t coming to e-ink until 2010 – and even then it will be pastels – not deep colors like we’re used to in our textbooks.

The current user-base are public transit users and the techies/gadget lovers. It is now becoming a tool for publishing professionals because of the ‘green effect.’ That’s what I would think would be the biggest draw – I would love to use a digital reader instead of printing out PDFs. I was always told that I couldn’t read PDFs on the Sony Reader – but Daniel told me that PDFs are readable on the Reader. The problem is that when PDFs get heavy on charts and graphics – they don’t render that well, but text heavy PDFs work great.

I guess I have to go back to restart my research and see if I want the Kindle or the Reader for my journal reading :) (it may come down to which has software that works on a Mac).

Salim Roukos with IBM Research Worldwide was next with his talk entitled Real-Time Translation Services.

In 2006 English was the top language used online, but this past summer, Chinese surpassed that, making Chinese the most used language online. Content online is going to become more and more diverse, making it harder to research if you don’t understand multiple languages.

Salim talked to us about three types of translations:

  • Text-to-Text
  • Speech-to-Text
  • Speech-To-Speech

For Text-To-Text, he showed us n.Fluent Translation which has a 90% translation accuracy. He showed us the translation from Arabic to English on the BBC’s website and it was pretty darn good. People can then make corrections and ‘teach’ the machine how to translate properly. He also showed us a Multi-lingual chat they have at IBM. Each user chats in their own language, but it appears for the other person in their language. I tried to find a live demo of this – but wasn’t able to (and had limited Internet access) – so if you know of a way to test this awesome tool, just let me know and I’ll put a link in.

For Speech-To-Text he showed us Tales which is a service that takes news from several channels worldwide and puts the close-captioning immediately – and it’s even better than the close-captioning I’ve seen on US news show.

He then showed us and example of Speech-To-Speech, which was a device they are using in Iraq to let soldiers talk to the locals. The example he gave us was from the device used during the Olympics in China – I have no idea how accurate it was (cause I don’t speak Chinese) but it was pretty darn cool to watch it in action.

Zsolt Silberer from Wolters Kluwer ended this panel with his talk Transforming Technologies – A publishers perspective.

Zsolt started by reminding us that we’re in the midst of unprecedented change and he feels (unlike other’s I’ve heard in the audience here) that it’s a great time to be a publisher because the power of the content curator is valuable online.

He talked about his 4-year-old and how she’s used to instant gratification, seeing the picture on the digital camera right after it’s taken. She also wants to be able to do multiple things at once. While that seems intimidating, Zsolt says that it’s just evolution and we shouldn’t be scared of it.

One way to go with the flow (my words) is to start to understand your customers better. Students aren’t reading textbooks much anymore, they’re learning off of PowerPoint slides put up by their professors and teachers, they’re learning with games and they’re learning by taking notes in class. What can we do to appeal to these students with the new ways they’re learning?

Another example is the prevalence of mobile devices. Doctors have their mobile devices with them while at the patient’s bedside, so it would be best if they can research on those devices. Right now they can search on several sites using mobile devices, but in the end it leads them to a PDF and now they’re stuck … Publishers have to make their content available where ever customers and users want it -and they have to open up your systems to enable experimentation and remixing by developers.

In short, we’re getting there, but we’re not there yet, and it’s time to really focus on getting our content out there onto these devices.

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