This year's prestigious German Future Prize has been awarded to the inventor of an electronic translating device which brings humanity one step closer to the concept of Artificial Intelligence.
At a ceremony in Berlin, German President Johannes Rau presented the award to Professor Wolfgang Wahlster of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence at the University of Saarbrücken.
Wahlster developed the "Verbmobile". This is essentially a computer that translates between German, English and Japanese.
The computer works in 'almost real time' and was developed as a business application for a three-way conference call. It is the first of its kind in creation and also works on mobile devices.
Wahlster and his team received an impressive half a million Marks (256.000 Euro) for the creation. It has been in development for more than eight years.
He had to record millions upon millions of peoples voices, tones and expressions for translation. According the Professor, his biggest hurdles were the grammatical rules associated with each language as well as the fact that one word may have several different meanings and is dependent on the context.
Started in 1993, the project has cost an exhorbitant DM 160 million to date. The actual technology has many applications such as voice activated personal computer software. A Japanese company has come up with a novel application for the creation. It would like to purchase the technology for a toy dog that plays 'fetch' on command.