Story by Hayley Bruce | Video by Lauren Katalinich
A mobile app that has changed the way international students view restaurant menus started with a disastrous date.
Mortified after ordering a salad topped with moldy cheese for his dining companion, University of Iowa student RuiHao Min came up with the idea for a visual menu translation app to help international students make more informed ordering decisions.
The app, “Blue Cheese,” gives users a re-sizable scanning box so they can take a photo of the menu items they don’t understand.
The user is then provided with an immediate English to Chinese translation for all of the food items scanned.
Though typical translation apps provide only literal definitions, Min has discovered there is a market for people who want information that goes beyond that.
His app provides photos and flavor descriptions aimed to help those unfamiliar with the language on a menu make ordering decisions based on what they would and would not enjoy eating, rather than just the words they recognize.
“We’ve discovered it is both a language barrier and a cultural barrier,” Min says. “For example, ‘blue’ and ‘cheese’ are very simple words – we all know them – but you would never know exactly what blue cheese looks like or tastes like until you try it.”
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