Google is testing the possibility of real-time voice translation tech for Android phones, the company has revealed.
The Babel Fish mobile tech will allow handsets to become "universal translators" with one participant speaking in one language, while the recipient hears the conversation in their native tongue.
The implications for mobile users may be years away yet, but Android VP Hugo Barra told The Times "this is where we're headed."
He added: "That is where we’re headed,” he said. “We’ve got tons of prototypes of that sort of interaction, and I’ve played with it every other week to see how much progress we’ve made.”
Barra added that in controlled environments, devoid of background noise, the tech is already "close to 100 per cent accurate" with certain language pairings performing better than others. However, with ambient acoustics added to the mix, things become a little trickier.
The company is already deep into translation tech. It's Google Translate app for Android and iOS devices is beyond reproach.
It allows users to speak or type in their native lingo, only for the app to speak back or show text in the intended language. Just this week the company added support for handwriting input in 45 languages.
Real-time translation of phone conversations would obviously be a big step forward from that, but it appears work is well underway.
“We want you to be able to translate things instantly,” said Josh Estelle, an engineer with Google Translate. “We want those conversations to happen.”
Babel Fish isn't a name that should be unfamiliar with tech fans. Beyond its origins in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel, it was also the monicker given to one of the first web translation tools, powered by Altavista and then Yahoo.
After a period redirecting to Microsoft's Bing Translator searches for the service take users to the Yahoo.com homepage.