Vocre iPhone app is a voice-powered translator

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012

Vocre is a new voice-recognition app for iPhones that lets you speak in one language and hear what you said translated into another.

Using the app Vocre (pronounced voh-krey) is supposed to be like having a personal translator with you on your trip. In my tests, I found that the voice recognition is astonishingly accurate, but it seemed too cumbersome to use in most real-world circumstances.

Let's say you're speaking with someone in a foreign country. You are struggling to say something in particular. You open Vocre on your iPhone, choose your gender and the gender of the local you're talking to, pick the language you're translating into, and then say what you want to say—talking into your iPhone. The app will show what you want to say in English. Turn your iPhone in the air, and the device will speak out loud a translation of what you just said.

The app works for translating English into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese (Mandarin). It debuted at a TechCrunch event this week.

The app is free to download but it charges about 10 cents a translation after the first complimentary bunch of translations. The app works with a built-in dictionary. It does not need to connect to the Internet, and your phone is not hit with data charges while roaming in a foreign country. So how do you get billed, you might wonder? Well, you have to buy credits. Each translation costs a credit, and ten credits cost a dollar, which you can pre-pay before you head to your country. But it won't take long in a conversation for the charges to add up.

See the video below for a demonstration of Vocre.

Up until now, the main app in this space has been Jibbigo Translator, which listens to what you say in English and speaks back a translation with written versions. It has a more interesting range of languages than Vocre: Mandarin, Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog and Iraqi Arabic. It also has bigger vocabularies in each language, and it doesn't charge you per translation. It's also available in Android, not just iPhone/iPad. $5.

But the usability of Vocre is superior in a lot of situations.

What are your thoughts? Would you ever use a tool like this while traveling?


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It's named what!?! The worst names for restaurants ever

The world's worst restaurant names? They're picked every year by Zagat, the famous restaurant review site. Zagat was bought last week by the search giant Google for its "useful," "eccentric," and "comprehensive in big cities" restaurant reviews by more than 300,000 patrons. It just so happens that Zagat (pronounced za-GAT with "GAT" like "cat") recently published a list of the world's worst restaurant names. Here are a few of its picks: Rat's Restaurant, Hamilton, N.J. Expensive spot, honoring the rodent character in The Wind in the Willows. Surrounded by Seward Johnson’s life-size sculptures imitating French impressionist Claude Monet's beloved Impressionist paintings. B.A.D. Sushi, L.A. It's hip to have an acronym in the name of your restaurant, which in this case is "Best And Delicious.” The only problem is that, well, it's BAD. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('83bc5d6b-af14-4d6b-b319-b6720755ce4d');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Captain Poo's, Myrtle Beach, S.C. Say the name and you say everything, right? Pink Taco, Century City, L.A. Californians excel at making Mexican food and they excel at marketing everything known to man, so it's no surprise that this Mexican joint with the goofy name is an import from Las Vegas, which tends to get both things wrong. And here are a few more nominations for bad restaurant names: Ruth's Chris Steak House, 130-plus locations across the U.S. Ruth Fertel bought a New Orleans restaurant, Chris Steak House. The contract said she couldn't move the restaurant and keep the name, so when she eventually moved it she added her own name on it. The Dead Fish, Crockett, Calif. The owner's grandmother had a standard reply whenever someone asked her what fish she was cooking any given night: "A dead fish." In her honor, he named the restaurant. Which is a great story, but, still. Blunch, Boston. Supposedly inspired by a restaurant in France called Flunch. But something got lost in the translation. Fuddruckers, national chain, about 200 spots.Love the burgers, hate their name. (Fighting words, I know.) The Fudd is like Häagen-Dazs. It has no meaning, it's merely supposed to catch your attention. Which it does. Like a bad piece of Muzak you can't get out of your head. Doug Lansky, famous for "The Titanic Awards" and "Signspotting," put out a similar list. Here are some names he found: Soon Fatt Chinese Food, Ireland What else is there to add? My Dung, Calif. There are several restaurants named My Dung in California, including one in Rosemead. Go figure. Stomach Clinic Railways Restaurant, Nairobi, Kenya If you're feeling classy, call this by its likely formal name: Gastrointestinal Examination Bistro. Have you ever encountered a badly named restaurant? Let us know in the comments. And vote in our poll on the worst of the bunch. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Ask Trip Coach: Top tips for traveling with your pet Slideshow: Readers' cutest pet photos Pet Travel News: A handy app, a Disney resort, and more


The Budget Travel Convert: Reporting from...Tuscany

Hobart Fowlkes, our "Budget Travel Convert," is a high–end jetsetter by trade, budget globetrotter by choice. He reports regularly on the best (and most affordable) experiences and hotels around the world. Today he updates us on a recent trip to Florence and Tuscany's Versilian Coast. See photos from my trip to Tuscany. FIRST STOP, FLORENCE… Before waxing poetic about my trip to Tuscany's Versilian Coast, I must warn readers about renting cars in Italy. I have rented cars in many countries, and I must say that I am still perplexed by what went down at the Hertz Counter at the Pisa Airport on my recent visit to the Tuscan "riviera". I booked my car through Delta so that I would receive miles, and was offered a reasonable price for a new Fiat 500 of 23EUR/day, which seemed reasonable. The total should have been 207EUR, but somehow with all of the extra taxes and fees it came out to something closer to 500EUR. Of course I am well aware of the 20% VAT which exists in all of the EU countries, but I did not expect a 20% Pisa Airport Tax, plus the compulsory base insurance package. Ultimately, my rental car ended up costing me more than almost anything else on the entire trip. (I wish I had read this article before I left: 6 Foreign Car Rental Fees to Watch for on Vacation.) Arriving in Pisa at midday, I picked up my rental car and made a beeline straight to Florence to meet my friends. We had a rendez-vous at Stazione di Santa Maria Novella, which is easy to find, but traffic patterns in cities built prior to the Middle Ages can sometimes be perplexing, so I spent an unnecessary amount of time driving in circles whilst texting in an effort to find those whom I was meeting. Where I stayed: I chose a place called "The Old Bridge." The locals call it a "bed & breakfast" but it is not exactly a B&B; at all, it is just an apartment owned in the building directly across from the Hotel La Scaletta—a place I stayed once before and found to have very reasonable rates. Via Gicciardini, 22 nero, 011-39/055-265-4262, florenceoldbridge.com How much I paid: The total cost of the room was $101 (70EUR) per night. Why I recommend it: The location is great—it is exactly equidistant between the Palazzo Pitti and the Ponte Vecchio. Also, the roof terrace at La Scaletta has awesome views of the city and backs right up against the Boboli Gardens and the Fortezza del Belvedere. When Hotel La Scaletta is fully booked, since it seems to be quite popular, they offer rooms at even better rates at The Old Bridge, which is where I stayed this time around. Each of the six rooms in Old Bridge is perfectly clean and comfortable each with its own bathroom, AC, TV and WiFi. On the down side, you will have to cross the street to go to breakfast at La Scaletta. Otherwise, I was perfectly happy. Where I ate: Tuscan cuisine is exquisite though somewhat uniform in its content. All over the region no matter where you go, you will be offered a variety of dishes featuring wild boar and porcini mushrooms, and the menu will most definitely include a giant Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which is priced per kilo. I don't believe there is such a thing as a Bistecca alla Fiorentina that weighs less than a kilo, I guess theirs is a region with particularly heavy cattle. Having eaten in a wide range of restaurants, my favorite was Trattoria Quattro Leoni. It is just steps from the Hotel La Scaletta and has one of the coziest atmospheres and best food in all of Florence. Other places to check out are Osteria Santo Spirito which is located directly on Piazza di Santo Spirito. Il Latini is a place loved by both tourists as well as Florentines themselves. THEN, ON TO THE VERSILIAN COAST… At the recommendation of some Milanesi friends, we headed straight for a town called Torre del Lago Puccini on the Versilian Coast. The Puccini is tacked on to the end of the name, since it was the birthplace and home of the famous operatic composer, so the town is also known for its annual Puccini Festival. It is also known for its vibrant nightlife (but take note—although the town might wish it could compete with the more popular international destinations such as Ibiza and Mykonos, it can't). The beaches are nice and entertaining, though crammed with beds and umbrella, which you reserve and pay for as you cross the dune. Never a dull moment, one feels as if one has entered into a Fellini movie in which a range of characters stroll onto and off of the screen randomly...some fighting, some billing and cooing, some wanting to sell you jewelry, others wanting to cover you in henna tattoos, some might want to braid your hair, there is just no telling what might turn the corner next, but it kind of makes you feel like you just plopped yourself into a busy marketplace and that you have to keep a constant eye on your belongings. I guess what I am trying to say in a diplomatic way is that the beaches in Torre del Lago are not at ALL relaxing, but they are extremely entertaining. Where I stayed: There are several places to stay in Torre del Lago, though I believe we ended up in the most appealing. It is a bed and breakfast called B&B; Libano. Libano is the Italian word for Lebanon, so I kind of wondered what the connection was until I met the adorable owner and found that he just happened to be named Libano. Via Tabarro, 23, 011-39/058-435-0322, bedandbreakfast-libano.it How much I paid: My room was big and comfy and cost me $87 (60EUR) per night. Why I recommend it: I believe that Libano inherited this large house (it can accommodate up to 60 people), which he turned into a beach guest house that caters mainly (though not exclusively) to the Gay and Lesbian crowd—a lot of Torre del Lago's nightlife tends to be somewhat "homocentric." An adorable human being, Libano makes you feel instantly at home upon your arrival. There is an onsite restaurant that serves a sumptuous included brunch daily from 9AM to 1PM, a small gym and AC, TV and WiFi thoughout the house. While I really found Libano and his staff to be very kind and sweet and hospitable, their efforts to try to foster friendships between guests and have evening social hours might seem slightly awkward for some. Mr. Libano takes his evening happy hour so seriously that besides merely providing complimentary olives, nuts, and local wines, he serves massive Italian dishes like Lasagna and Spaghetti alle Vongole. Brunch, happy hour, drinks, the impromptu pasta dishes are ALL included in the price of your room which is very cheap. The only requirement of the guest is to try to remain cheerful and sociable and play along with the vibe of the place. Where I ate: On our first night in Torre dl Lago we went to the most highly recommended restaurant in town, La Buffalina. It is very nice, but knowing that that was the best that the town had to offer we began to look elsewhere and discovered that the Versilian Coast is actually awesome with tons of great places to see. For example, a 20 minute drive from Torre del Lago will take you to the gorgeous Medieval town of Pietrasanta which for centuries has been the center for marble sculpting in Italy given its proximity to Carrara. The town is beautiful, full of great restaurants and shops, and became our favorite haunt in the evenings. The very best restaurant in town, in my humble opinion, is called Ristorante Filippo. Filippo himself is probably the kindest, most accommodating restaurateur in the entire town of Pietrasanta, and he, too, runs a bed and breakfast directly adjacent to his restaurant called Le Camere di Filippo where I will most definitely stay the next time I find myself in that region. About 15 more minutes up the coast and you will come to the crown jewel in the Versilian Coast—Forte dei Marmi. This is the spot where all the fashionable Florentines go to see and be seen. There is really nothing to be had in that town for the "budget" traveler, but it is definitely worth taking a look. Built entirely in the 1930s by Mussolini, Forte dei Marmi is a spectacle in many ways should not be missed. Next stop: Barcelona and the beachtown of Sitges, possibly followed by a short trip back to Tuscany to spend an autumn weekend on the Island of Elba where Napoleon Bonaparte was once sent in exile. "Able was I ere I saw Elba" is the apocryphal palindrome supposedly uttered by the deposed emperor himself. Stay tuned.

Car rentals for $10 a day every weekend through next spring

The latest car rental deal from Enterprise is a doozy, with daily rates of just $9.99 at more than 6,000 U.S. locations. Now and all the way through May 23, 2012, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is hosting a discounted weekend rental promotion in which rates at thousands of locations around the country start at a smidge under $10 per day. That's the rate for economy/compact vehicles, and larger cars are available for a bit more: $14.99 for intermediates, $17.99 for standards, and $19.99 for full-size automobiles. Before getting too-too exciting, note that the main bummer is that these special prices are not available at airport locations. This promotion is strictly available at neighborhood (non-airport) Enterprise lots. There are a couple of other restrictions as well. This is a weekend-only deal, and the best rates are for rentals during Friday-Monday periods. Also, while most car rentals come with unlimited miles, there's a limit of 100 miles per day with this special. Drive over the limit and you'll be hit with an additional charge, probably in the neighborhood of 20 cents per mile. Even so, the deal's pretty fantastic. A three-day weekend special on a compact at a neighborhood Enterprise location in the Fort Myers, Fla., area, for example, would come to an estimated total of $40.02 after mandatory taxes and fees. That same vehicle, rented for the same three-day time period, would total over $140 if the traveler instead rented out of Enterprise's Fort Myers airport location. Similar deals are available all over the country. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Deals on Wheels: Peer-to-Peer Car Rentals Wheel Deals: Pros and Cons to Off-Airport Car Rentals Money-saving travel hack: Rent a moving truck instead of a car


Honeymoon travel: How to find an overwater bungalow bargain

Overwater bungalows are an escape fantasy made real, with water lapping under a hut poised on stilts in a serene, aquamarine lagoon. A new site, Overwater Bungalows, makes it easy to comparison shop for a resort where you can walk in your bare feet and admire romantic sunsets out the open door. The site lists every single overwater bungalow in Bora Bora and beyond. French Polynesia offers the most romantic of overwater getaways, but $800 is the typical starting price. Thankfully, Overwater Bungalows has found resorts that are both better priced than Tahiti and still within a belly flop of the ocean. Here are a few for under $300 a night or so, now through January. Panama Near the San Blas Islands, about a half-hour by plane from Panama City (around $70 round trip), the Coral Lodge's six casitas all sit over the water. They boast soaring roofs and creature comforts like Jacuzzis and air-conditioning. The tiny, remote resorts do a marvelous job of re-creating the magical thatched-roof South Pacific look and vibe. 011-507/317-6754, corallodge.com, from $240 a night per couple (including tax of about 15 percent) through October (the off season), and then $263 a night for dates in November through Christmas. French Polynesia, Raiatea A South Pacific bargain, comparatively speaking, can be found at the " target="_blank">Raiatea Hawaikik Nui Hotel, whose lodgings are 120 miles northwest of Tahiti by speedboat. The lodgings have high ceilings and oversize verandas. Trade winds make up for the lack of A/C. 800/657-3275, pearlresorts.com/hawaiki, overwater bungalows at $291 a night, including tax, for stays during October. French Polynesia, Moorea Popular Moorea (within easy reach of Tahiti by ferry or plane) is home to Club Bali Hai, which arguably invented the overwater bungalow in the 1960s. Says Overwater Bungalows, based on an inspection: "Being perfectly honest, the Club Bali Hai is only a good choice for those who want an affordable and novel accommodation with a stunning view. The facilities are quite dated and will disappoint those who come with high expectations. On the other hand, the location near many other restaurants and bars makes it an extremely easy and cheap place to stay on an island with very few choices in this price category. The location is deep within Cook’s Bay with amazing views of Moorea’s mountains." 877-426-7262, clubbalihai.com, from around $250 a night (including taxes) if you book for a week or so. More gorgeous overwater bungalows can be found at OverwaterBungalows.net. That said, the site's operator, Roger Wade, cautions that "$300 is just a bit below the sweet spot for some really nice places. Those who can go up to $400/night have loads of great options, and even $350/night gets some good choices." Budget Travel Tip: Once you're at these resorts, you're truly at these resorts: They're remote, and dining on-site is usually the only option. So include a budget for food costs as you comparison shop. Another tip: Ask for the most secluded hut because sound carries far over water and you don't want to be hearing your neighbor's sounds. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL How safe is your hotel room safe? Get discounted travel by buying gift cards Solo travel websites worth checking out