googletranslateI have been fairly slow in joining the 21st century. For example, I did not finally purchase an iPhone until last December. I have been trying to make up for lost time, among other things by becoming better acquainted with some of the available apps. In this post, I review three of my favorite new app discoveries, both to share what I have found and in the hope that others will share their favorite apps as well.


Google Translate

The first app I want to share involves an Internet resource that is probably familiar to just about everyone – that is, Google Translate. Most people know that you can use this Google function to translate phrases from one language to another. That’s great, of course. But the Google Translate app for iPhones and Android has a feature that is so amazing that it really seems like magic to me. Using this feature, you can hold your phone’s camera up to a word or phrase in one language and have it translated instantaneously into another language, without taking a picture or even entering the word or phrase into your phone. Even more astonishing, the translated word or phrase will appear on your phone’s screen as if the translated word or phrase were itself a part of the original source image.


Just describing this feature does not nearly do it justice, so in order to show how amazing this feature is, I propose a little demonstration, right here and now and on this very blog page. In order to participate in this demonstration, you will have to download the Google Translate app on your phone. You can find the app here. It is free. Once the app is downloaded on your phone, go to the app home page and set the translation function up so that it is arranged to translate from Czech to English. Then point your phone’s camera at these two pictures below that I previously had included in my post last month about my visit to Prague. (You may have to allow the app to have access to your phone’s camera. You may also have to adjust the position of your phone so that it gets the proper angle on the image. The place names on the blue sign will not translate.)


navigating the subway








pilsen railroad sign








What you should see when you point your camera at each of these images is the English translation of the important and useful content on the signs in the images. I find this translation function doubly amazing. Not only does it render the content in the signs that were to me basically unintelligible into meaningful information, but the translated information appears with the same formatting and coloring as if they were part of the actual signs. Like me, you may be tempted to believe that this is magic, plain and simple. However, it is not magic; it is a demonstration of the power of a particular aspect of machine learning known as deep learning, as described here. From my daughter who is involved in the tech world, I know that this is where all of the energy is going right now in Silicon Valley. Be prepared for many other seriously cool applications using deep learning.


It is probably worth reiterating that this amazing technology is available and can be used for free. That part really is magic.



turboscanIf you are like me, you return from a trip with a handful of business cards, receipts, meeting agendas, menus, handwritten notes, and various other detritus. It would be useful to have all of these materials rendered into digital form so that it could be stored electronically. You could of course scan the documents. However, you need a scanner to do this, which basically means you have to be back at your desk to do it. Also, scanning takes time. There is, however, a way to quickly scan all of these documents using only your phone, and to have each of the documents set up as a .pdf document that you can organize and store.


The way that you can do this using only your phone is by using the TurboScan app. Let me just say at the outset that this app violates one of my cardinal rules when it comes to apps, which is that I never want to have to pay for anything. This app, which can be found here, costs $2.99. Although my basic cheapness instincts rebel against the very idea, I have to admit that this app is worth this modest cost.


Once you have downloaded the app, you can simply take a picture of anything – say, your handwritten notes of an important meeting – and then have it set up as a .pdf file that you can then, using the app command functions, send to yourself by email as a .pdf.


For example, I recently received some documents from the accountant for my mother’s estate while I was on vacation. I received the documents in hard copy, but I wanted my own tax accountant to see the documents right away. Because I was on vacation, I did not have access to a scanner. However, I did have my phone, so I was able to scan the documents using only my phone and the TurboScan app and then I was able to email the documents to my tax accountant right away. Because I was able to show him the documents, he was able to respond to my question that same day and in turn I was able to respond the accountant for my mother’s estate right away as well.


Similarly, I used the app multiple times in connection with my recent trip to Brazil. I was able to make images of all of the business cards I received; of the meeting agendas; of the interesting menus; of my handwritten notes; of the names of hotels and restaurants; of several interesting newspaper articles; and so on. I was able to email all of these images to myself and to put them in an email file folder labeled “Brazil 2015” so that I can retrieve any part of this information from one simple electronic file.


NBC Sports Live Extra App

nbcI hope that everyone knows that the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League season began this past weekend. Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of English Premier League soccer. In the U.S., most of the Premier League games can be viewed live on NBC Sports.  (Based on this week’s news, we will be watching the Premier League in the U.S. on NBC Sports for years to come.) The only problem is that the games are played during the daytime in England, which means they are televised during the early morning hours in the U.S. I can of course DVR the games to be able to watch them later, but that means that I have to be at home both to set up the DVR and to watch the replay. I travel a lot, so I can’t always set up the DVR and I am not always at home with my TV when I want to watch a game.


Fortunately, there is a way around this. NBC Sports has conveniently set up an app called NBC Sports Live Extra that allows you to watch full game replays of English Premier League games anywhere, anytime. The catch is that you need to be a subscriber to a cable network that carries the NBC Sports channel. But if you are, you can set up the NBC Sport Live Extra app and watch the games at your convenience. For free.


The NBC Sports Live Extra App can be found here. Once you have downloaded the app, and assuming that you subscribe to one of the participating cable systems so that you have access to the content, you can then click on the Sports menu, then click on the Barclays Premier League icon, which will take you to the Premier League page. Once there, you will want to click on the Full Event Replays option from the menu. Select the game you want to watch. Once the game image has loaded, you can watch the game as a full screen image by tapping the image twice. If you don’t want to watch the entire game, you can instead click on the Highlights option (rather than the Full Event Replays option) to watch a short video clip of individual games.


You can of course do all of this on your phone, but I find that this works best on an iPad. With the iPad connected to a Bluetooth speaker, the viewing experience comes pretty close to what you would get by watching a small TV. I enjoyed watching games from the Premier League season’s first weekend this past Sunday evening while sitting by the fire on the screen porch at our house in rural Northern Michigan.



So those are my three cool app recommendations. I hope some readers find these suggestions interesting or useful. I hope that readers who have other apps that they like will take a moment to suggest their favorites for other readers to enjoy, using this blog’s comment feature to post the information to this page.


If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On — There’s an App for That: My recent post with recommendations of the top music apps for your phone can be found here.


munich re d and o scoutA Nifty New D&O Gadget: During my recent visit to Munich, I was introduced to a nifty new D&O app that Munich Re has developed, called the D&O Scout. The D&O Scout is an application that is downloadable onto iOS and Android powered tablets. (It is not yet available for phones.) It has interactive features that facilitate inquiries about D&O insurance, about policy terms and conditions, and about program structure. It is a very cool little gadget. Information about the D&O Scout can be found here and the app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store here. Download the app and check it out.


duckIf You Look Closer, It’s Easy to Trace the Tracks of My Searches (Too Easy): It is great that Google offers so many nifty things for free. But just the same I am not a big fan of how Google follows me around keeping track of my every move. In particular, I don’t think Google needs to be building a dossier of all of my Internet search requests. So I have started using DuckDuckGo, a search engine that emphasizes users’ privacy and promises that it won’t track your searches. It also promises that it will show all users the same search results. Information about DuckDuckGo can be found here, and the search engine itself can be found here.