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Google Making Language Translation Phone

It wasn't too long ago that using online translator services such as Google Translate or AltaVista's Babel Fish seemed like the magic that would erase language barriers across the internet. Now Google is working on a new software that could translate voice input nearly instantly – as if sticking a Babel Fish into your ear.

Google already has a working text-to-text translation service as well a voice recognition system it uses for its phone software, including Google Voice.

"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, in a Times Online story. "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."

The challenge now, besides reducing the lag between input and output, is improving accuracy of voice recognition. After all, the spoken word has more opportunities of variation compared to text.

"Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch. 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," said Och. "The more data we input, the better the quality."

Do you think a real-world Babel Fish could eventually take away the need for people to learn multiple languages?

  • padlius
    Looks interesting, but I wont be using it.
    Reply
  • Zoonie
    Cause you're probably stuck in Hickville for life, Jim Bob! Not all people around the world know how to speak english.
    Reply
  • grillz9909
    No more foreign language classes? haha
    Either way, the world needs to have one official language. Chinese, German, English, idc.
    Reply
  • tayb
    Oh man I'm laughing thinking about having something in my ear that is translating say Spanish and it makes as many mistakes as the Google Voice voicemail to text translater does. "Wait, what? You want dried papaya vytek?"

    Cool thought. A lot of work to do.
    Reply
  • grieve
    wow, this would be HUGE. Imagine being able to communicate anywhere you go.
    For example... I goto Mexico on vacation and only know a few words in Spanish. LOL Call the waiter and he can hear in Spanish what you want. Yah it seems retarded but seriously if you HAD to communicate in another language it would be a easy solution.

    I could finally order something other then cerveza
    Reply
  • tayb
    grillz9909No more foreign language classes? hahaEither way, the world needs to have one official language. Chinese, German, English, idc.
    Let's just put aside the "how" argument here and I'll simply ask, why? Why does the world need one official language?
    Reply
  • grillz9909
    taybLet's just put aside the "how" argument here and I'll simply ask, why? Why does the world need one official language?
    So humans can finally understand each other. Would we need to have huge wars against another country, if the people of both countries can understand what is going on? I think it would be easier to just sit down and talk. That's just my opinion though, maybe it's best that we alienate ourselves from... ourselves?
    Reply
  • falconqc
    Would be pretty awesome to have a universal translator like in star trek. Now everyone can speak english!

    Google will have to work on their translations though. People of different regions sometimes have "sayings" that lose meaning when translated or can cause misunderstandings.
    Reply
  • San Pedro
    Um, doubt this will work all that well, especially when the grammar of two languages is significantly different. Take Japanese for instance, when using Japanese, subject comes first (and is often omitted after first use) followed by any objects and verb is last, where as English is subject verb then object. I have great doubts that this will work all that well. I think the technology is still far off. I mean just try using google page translator, it is still seriously lacking in the accuracy department.
    Reply
  • amarok
    Yet another way google can cram their ubiquitous advertising down the throats of people.
    Wouldn't be surprised if they secretly "listen" to the conversation and if the users also should be using google app. - gmail, goggle docs what have you...they will subtle show adverts targeted these users..
    Reply