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Google Working On Voice Translation for Mobiles

Gordon Kelly


C'est une bonne idee, non?

If this sentence causes you trouble (and in fairness even a blindfolded chimp should be able to make a good stab at it), Google is riding to the rescue with technology straight out of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (minus the Babel Fish!).

The Times reports the tech world's current darling is building a real-time voice recognition and translation tool which it hopes to build into mobile phones allowing simple communication between two callers speaking different languages.

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

The problem?

“Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch,” explained 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. The more data we input, the better the quality. There are a lot of language enthusiasts out there."

Yes, I know what you're thinking: no more French lessons! Well potentially - if you're prepared to have all your conversations with a phone next to your ear...

As Sci-Fi as this all sounds, the technology is a natural extension of Google's existing translation service which offers near instantaneous text translation between 52 languages and counting. Of course, none of this takes into account regional dialects and - quite frankly - bad grammar and pronunciation, so expect such a service to evolve very gradually.

Still, it makes me rather glad I didn't give into an ex-girlfriend and start those much pressured Polish lessons...

Na Zdrowie Google!


via The Times


February 9, 2010, 3:31 pm

I always loved those graphics on Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy. All done by hand as well:


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