The world seems to be slowly but surely moving towards a time when we will all be able to communicate and understand each other without the need for muddled sign language or rifling through dog-earred dictionaries. A few weeks ago we had the stunning Word Lens make an appearance and today Google has announced an improved Translate app for Android which, as we reported last year, includes Conversation Mode.
Conversation Mode, which Google says is still an “experimental feature”, is a new interface within Google Translate which will “allow you to communicate fluidly with a nearby person in another language.” It is a bold claim and is currently limited to translating between English and Spanish (similar to the limitations of Word Lens) but there is no doubt that this is a huge step forward towards a universal language translator. While you currently have to press submit between each sentence, Google’s Eric Schmidt has said the feature should work in real time within 18 months.
To use the function, in conversation mode, simply press the microphone for your language and start speaking. Google Translate will translate your speech and read the translation out loud. Your conversation partner can then respond in their language, and you’ll hear the translation spoken back to you. Because this technology is still in alpha, factors like regional accents, background noise or rapid speech may make it difficult to understand what you’re saying.
Google Translate was first launched in 2010 and currently supports 53 languages and is in daily use in 150 countries around the globe. Among the other improvements included in this update of the Translate app are better dropdown boxes to help select the languages you want to translate from and into, an improved input box, and cleaner icons and layout. You can download the app now for free from the Marketplace as long as you are running Android 2.1 or higher.