Not lost in translation: phone apps in development
Posted by Dave Barrett
Get online writer
January 10th 2013 at 12:17
The British are notoriously bad at learning languages. But thanks to the rapid advances being made in natural language processing (NLP) the ability to speak in tongues is now a possibility for everyone.
While Google may be hyping its new Project Glass headset at the Consumer Electronics Show currently taking place in Las Vegas (one of the functions of these futuristic glasses could be instantly translating for you) there are already apps around which can translate real-time conversations over the phone.
Real-time phone translating
This is currently only available from the Japanese mobile network NTT Docomo and offers translation between Japanese and English, Mandarin or Korean. However they plan to add other languages in the near future.
Since Apple launched its well-known app Siri, voice recognition software has become increasingly sophisticated.
Coming to the market
Lexifone looks to be the first on the scene in Europe offering translations between English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and Mandarin. The company is now working with BT and Telefonica to offer its service to these networks’ customers, although we don’t have a date yet. In the meantime why not check out the iPhone app – iVoice Translator. At a cost of 69p you can speak one of 25 languages and it translates into one of 63.
This is very exciting and will undoubtedly open up many opportunities for greater international exchange – as language barriers are broken down.
Potential to help those with impairments
Although the software can’t yet offer perfect translations, these products have great potential to transform lives, particularly if it could be extended to real time “speech to text” and “text to speech” translation. Or even a version that translates speech into BSL.
This would mean deaf people could communicate independently with others around the globe without the need for any intermediaries.
Not only would this save time but also money, as the need to book translators would be eliminated. Spontaneous communication would become possible and a world of opportunities opened up.
Apps are increasingly helping to level the playing field for people with disabilities. But let’s hope that things don’t get too lost in translation…
What do you think about not having to learn a language anymore to communicate when you’re on holiday? Let us know below.
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