Travel worries undone by dead-eyed technology

GEEK SPEAK
@steve_dinneen

AS I write this I'm three days through a trip to Prague, a city incomparably beautiful when viewed on a glass screen. And perhaps otherwise. I wouldn't know.

From the flight onwards, the need for independent thought has been almost entirely eradicated, cheerful, blinking LEDs obligingly making every decision for me.

The everyday difficulties of travelling – deciding where you want to go, working out how to get there, actually having to speak to people –have been radically eroded by the ceaseless, dead-eyed march of mobile technology.

Take Word Lens for the iPhone, an app so mind bogglingly futuristic it makes the actual future look like a rubbish version of the past. Point your phone at anything with writing on and, using its camera, it will replace the words with English.

Foreign menus need no longer hold any fear –simply point your phone and have it translated for you. There is no need to learn the odd phrase of the local dialect –thanks to Word Lens, the Neanderthal is king.

The one problem? For now it only works in Spanish, which isn't all that useful in the Czech Republic. So instead of
translating, it tantalised me with what a translation might look like, replacing real foreign words with made up English ones.

Gibberish danced over every street sign. Even pictures magically shifted into the senseless Word Lens language. The world became a glimpse into the shadowy corners of the mind of a dyslexic Rain Man.

Thankfully, more useful to the task in hand is iTranslate, which will translate between more languages than you have ever heard of.

Rather than verbally communicate with people, you can type something into your phone and thrust it at them (preferably avoiding eye-contact throughout). Technology (wonderful, wonderful technology) has done away with the need for even the most cursory human interaction.

Even the mental gymnastics involved in working out the tip at the end of a meal is removed by CheckPlease, an app that works out how much each person needs to pay, how much you need to tip, based on how generous you are feeling, and even whether you want to round the amount up. This is it people, you can down tools, the future is here.

And of course, don’t forget trusty old Google Maps, which will take you within three inches of almost anywhere in the world. Gone are the days of weighing up the pros and cons of various quaint riverside restaurants.

Instead you can let the folks on Trip Advisor decide for you while you are still in the hotel. There’s no need to look up from your phone until you are firmly seated in whichever god forsaken Irish pub you end up in.

All of this also means you never have to stop working. This column is being written on my iPad; my fingers banging into the glass like masochistic moths against the dull windowpane of the future.

All I need now is a VirtualHoliday app, which beams the sensory equivalent of a trip abroad directly into my mind and I could be done with the whole dirty business of leaving my house in the first place. Then I'd really be living the dream.

Sent from my only friend the iPad.