Google Working on Mobile Babel Fish Universal Translator

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babel_fish_translator

Back when I wrote about a new app called Spoken Translator that translates between English and Arabic over voice almost instantly, I got really excited. It seems that technology is coming increasingly close to the Babel Fish Universal Translator from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The NYT broke the story today that Google is developing mobile software that could universally translate between the world’s 6,000+ languages. While the technology is still a couple years away, apps like Spoken Translator are a good preview of things to come.

“We think speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years’ time,” said Franz Och, Google’s head of translation services.

“Clearly, for it to work smoothly, you need a combination of high-accuracy machine translation and high-accuracy voice recognition, and that’s what we’re working on.

“If you look at the progress in machine translation and corresponding advances in voice recognition, there has been huge progress recently.”

Google’s web-based translation services are pretty accurate but there are obviously far more challengers with speech-to-speech on mobile.

“Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch,” said Och. “But recognition should be effective with mobile phones because by nature they are personal to you. The phone should get a feel for your voice from past voice search queries, for example.”

In a couple years, Google will hopefully have enough data collected so that these two cultures will be able to speak to each other:

  • Brian_Barker

    Google's “Babel Fish” translator will in never solve the language problem. Not only does it discriminate against anyone who cannot afford a mobile phone, but against minority language groups as well.There are 6,800 languages worldwide, not fifty-two !Moreover, if I met a native in Borneo, and he said to me in Hakka “I've lost my mobile phone” how would I understand him :) And how many starving Africans can afford a mobile phone !As English loses its economic power, the answer is not for us to move to Mandarin Chinese, but to Esperanto which puts all speakers on an equal footing.Have a look at http://www.lernu.net or http://www.esperanto.net

  • Brian_Barker

    Google's “Babel Fish” translator will in never solve the language problem. Not only does it discriminate against anyone who cannot afford a mobile phone, but against minority language groups as well.

    There are 6,800 languages worldwide, not fifty-two !

    Moreover, if I met a native in Borneo, and he said to me in Hakka “I've lost my mobile phone” how would I understand him :) And how many starving Africans can afford a mobile phone !

    As English loses its economic power, the answer is not for us to move to Mandarin Chinese, but to Esperanto which puts all speakers on an equal footing.

    Have a look at http://www.lernu.net or http://www.esperanto.net

  • adelawalls

    I disagree with Brian. If you can't translate a language at least decently well, you shouldn't try at all. I mean, I love Google Translate because of the audio pronunciation and live translation, but with only one translator, you never know if the translation is accurate. I can't imagine the possible misunderstandings live over the phone. I mean how many times have my students used a translator and gotten “yo lata” for “I can” instead of “puedo.” I think it is better to use the Spanish translation tool from SpanishDict.com if you're going to use one at all. It has three translators (including Google) so that you can compare the translations and find the best option. But of course, this is only a text translator. Cross fingers for voice soon!

  • adelawalls

    I disagree with Brian. If you can't translate a language at least decently well, you shouldn't try at all. I mean, I love Google Translate because of the audio pronunciation and live translation, but with only one translator, you never know if the translation is accurate. I can't imagine the possible misunderstandings live over the phone. I mean how many times have my students used a translator and gotten “yo lata” for “I can” instead of “puedo.” I think it is better to use the Spanish translation tool from SpanishDict.com if you're going to use one at all. It has three translators (including Google) so that you can compare the translations and find the best option. But of course, this is only a text translator. Cross fingers for voice soon!

  • adelawalls

    I disagree with Brian. If you can't translate a language at least decently well, you shouldn't try at all. I mean, I love Google Translate because of the audio pronunciation and live translation, but with only one translator, you never know if the translation is accurate. I can't imagine the possible misunderstandings live over the phone. I mean how many times have my students used a translator and gotten “yo lata” for “I can” instead of “puedo.” I think it is better to use the Spanish translation tool from SpanishDict.com if you're going to use one at all. It has three translators (including Google) so that you can compare the translations and find the best option. But of course, this is only a text translator. Cross fingers for voice soon!

  • http://www.gns-bloggers.com Hamza Ahmed

    Google is great………..!!!!