Ortsbo: Return to Shinar

Ortsbo: Return to Shinar

Summary: Take a look at Ortsbo's revolutionary language software. The world may never be the same as long as we keep to the mundane and resist the temptation to build a tower to heaven.


Genesis 11: 1-9

Now the whole Earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them." "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

Though I'm not sure Ortsbo's President, David Lucatch, will fully appreciate or condone the biblical reference, there's an uncanny parallel between software that allows us to communicate with each other, in real time, using almost any application--in the conversation participant's native languages and that of the Tower of Babel. Further, if you think about it, not since that time, in ancient Shinar, have people been able to communicate freely for a single purpose. Ortsbo enables us to do so.

Now, our goals are less lofty than those of the ancient  Shinar people; we just want to let everyone know what we had for lunch or which concert we're attending. Perhaps we've learned our lessons well.

I had the pleasure of speaking with David Lucatch about Ortsbo during a recent phone interview. My reaction to the revelation of what Ortsbo brings us was, "Wow, this changes everything." And, it does.

How does it change everything?

Simple. If I can text a coworker in India, in his native Hindi, and he can text me back in English, we've achieved an immediate connection and rapport. We've also made ourselves 100% more efficient. No misunderstood instructions. No language difficulties. No accents. Just communication. Simple.

So simple, in fact, that I believe Ortsbo will revolutionize global communications. That makes the world a much smaller and more peaceful place in which to live. OK, maybe that's a bit lofty but language keeps people apart. It makes us suspicious of one another. It builds cultural barriers. It causes prejudice and discrimination.

I'm not sure Lucatch and his team ever considered the full ramifications of this service, when they started it, but the implications are far-reaching. And, it will only be a matter of time before the service reaches applications like Skype, where I will speak to someone in Russia in my native English and they will hear me in their native Russian. Just imagine it. Conference calls where no one says, "I didn't get that last part, can you repeat it?" While the person on the other end tries desperately to eek out his thoughts in a language so foreign to him, that it's even more unintelligible than on his first attempt.

Ortsbo, for those of you who want to know, means "Local."

What it means for those who are smart enough to get it, is "Global." Ortsbo removes the old limitations. You can now speak any language that you want to speak.

No Rosetta Stone needed.

Note to the people's of the world: It took us 5,000-ish years to get back to this point, don't screw it up again. I had a cheese omelette for breakfast.

Topic: India


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • RE: Ortsbo: Return to Shinar

    Wicked!!! But can you tell us more about how it works?
    • RE: Ortsbo: Return to Shinar


      They have example videos and FAQs on the site.
  • RE: Ortsbo: Return to Shinar

    The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.


    The vodka was good but the meat was rotten

    I think there will be all sorts of times when you are going to have to make the person repeat what they said in different words.

    You can also use Google or Bing now to translate anything before sending.
    • RE: Ortsbo: Return to Shinar


      idiomatic language is difficult to translate--that's why it should be avoided. Ortsbo translates in real time.
      • RE: Ortsbo: Return to Shinar

        @khess But that rather goes against your article:

        "Simple. If I can text a coworker in India, in his native Hindi, and he can text me back in English, we???ve achieved an immediate connection and rapport. We???ve also made ourselves 100% more efficient. No misunderstood instructions. No language difficulties. No accents. Just communication. Simple."

        'writing for translation' is hard, and people frequently get it wrong. If this system isn't actually capable of translating the type of speech or writing we use naturally - and no current automated translation system is - then it really doesn't fulfil the Utopian vision in your paragraph above. There absolutely still will be the potential for "misunderstood instructions" and "language difficulties".
  • Apply a technology solution to non-technological problem

    At the very, very best, it will work about as well as IBM's Watson.
    But the consequences for Watson getting it wrong (or even not quite right) were intrinsically trivial.

    They've been working on machine translation for decades, and it <i>still</i> is not something you can rely on. Transferring the medium of communication from "printed text" to "spoken word" will only add additional problems.

    There is no "Easy Button" for real communication across linguistic (not to mention cultural) boundaries. Arguably, the most successful project in this area so far is far and away that of Esperanto -- yet that project (though in active development and actual use for well over a century) still requires participants/users to actually <I>learn</I> something. But it's much harder to promote a working solution that requires some effort, than a techno-magical fantasy that promise to skip right past all that actual learning stuff.

    If that's what Ortsbo is actually promising, they can't deliver. If they could, the guys in Stockholm and Oslo would be figuring out some way to give the Ortsbo team a Nobel Prize.
    • RE: Ortsbo: Return to Shinar

      Speaking of Nobel prizes. Did you know that Alfred Nobel's girlfriend's name was Sophie Hess? Awesome. I'll be she often told Alfred that he was "The Bomb."