Technology glosses

Terminology management helps us decipher meanings and explore concepts. At the same time, it is often regarded as the cherry on the cake, or an accessory task, rather than a necessary activity, which makes terminology management seem abstract and somehow superfluous. However, creative terms are indissolubly linked to knowledge.

Consider the term augmented reality (AR). From a purely terminological point of view, augmented reality has a place in our ideal termbase as it applies to a fairly new notion in the broad field of information technology and engineering. It is a view of the world obtained using a “3D program that layers virtual objects on top of the actual physical environment in real-time, adding a digital overlay to the immediate surroundings” according to Augment’s Essential Guide to Augmented Reality. Grammatically speaking, the term is an adjective-noun combination to be entered in the source language field as a full form, whereas AR, as an acronym, has its own source language field in the same entry. This is in compliance with the term autonomy rule of terminology management as set forth in the ISO standards.

From a text analysis standpoint, the term augmented reality is not far from being an oxymoron. Reality and augmented are de facto a juxtaposition, since reality reflects things as they actually exist, aside from any imaginary trimmings. But for a terminologist, augmented reality is a good example of how terms represent a concept and are not necessarily the sum of the meanings of their individual components.

The term was coined in the 1960s by Ivan E. Sutherland to describe the first head-mounted display that rendered simple wireframe drawings. Since then, the term has been used in a growing number of combinations, for instance “augmented reality markup language” or “augmented reality marker” to refer to the data standard that describes and interacts with augmented reality scenes and to the visual cues that trigger the display of the virtual information.

As for the relation between the term and its applications in real life, augmented reality is already being used in a variety of domains, although it is far from having achieved its full potential. One of the first AR examples broadcast on TV was the yellow first down line used for football games. Other examples of AR are stargazing applications such as Star Walk and, of course, Pokémon Go, which has recently captured the attention of millions of players all over the world.

But, how does augmented reality link with the language industry? Well, if we look at education, the offer is quite interesting, but for now it mainly revolves around children’s education (with applications like Quiver and the Arloon series) and language learning with applications such as Tellagami, ThingLink or Green Screen.

For the translation industry, an innovative company called Word Lens was working on how to go from an image in the source language to its translation in the target language. Sounds interesting? So much so that Google acquired the company in May 2014. It then integrated the augmented reality software into Google Translate and made it available to the general public in a downloadable application. For now, the functionality is available in a limited number of language pairs and does not recognize elaborate customized lettering, but it is definitely worth a try. Of course, what is really fascinating here is the idea of looking at written text as at an image and going, at least in an end-user perspective, from one language into another with just one picture and a couple of clicks, completely bypassing the writing act.

If we look at terminology management, the AR offer is still in its embryo phases. For our ideal termbase, I will have a look at the tools that can handle images and, why not, even videos? Just too often, there is no time to incorporate images into a termbase, but it looks like it is high time to revive this functionality and even expand it, possibly envisioning new horizons. So, developers, look into the different platforms and technology available out there:  Blippar, Aurasma, Augment, DAQRI 4D Studio and others. There might be some margin for action for augmented reality and  terminology management, too!

In the January 2017 issue of Profiles in Innovation by Goldman Sachs, the authors consider that “Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have the potential to become the next big computing platform, and as we saw with the PC and smartphone, we expect new markets to be created and existing markets to be disrupted.”