Tech, Gadgets, Photography, Social Media and Poor Spelling

How far are we from Star Trek Universal Translators?

The concept of being able to speak to someone in your mother tongue, and they hear their own language, then they speak back to you in their language and you hear your mother tongue well it’s the stuff of Star Trek, the universal translator however realistically in the Global village we now live in this should be the stuff of reality. And maybe it soon will be.

So, you speaking, a computer translating that speach, and the other person hearing in their language that might be a little way off, lets face it as good as the iPad speech recognition is and Nuance are doing a great job, its still just a little accent prohibitive. pretty much if we use English as a base unless you’re reciting the Queens own, Scouse, Geordie, Brummie it’s all a bit of a mystery to  Siri and Nuance.

However, there is a potential work around, because real language is inflicted with the colloquial dialect issues text and the written word sticks to set of rules. Ok, somewhat flaky but still a set of rules..

So Text translation Engines from the early roots of Babel Fish to Google translate are now getting to the point where they have expanded beyond languages from similar character sets and can even cope with highly complex translation. the best Example I can provide is the simple English to Thai translation. I use the word simple loosely. Of the thousands of words both languages posess there are a few which exist in both. Barn and บ้าน (which i hope translates to Baan) is one example I’m aware of. Anyone who has visited the Land of Smiles will from the moment they step of the plane notice that the Alphabet is about as Alien as it get to a Westerner. (and vice versa)  The Language is tonal, so you could (as I have) find yourself asking if someone can Iron a Tiger rather than Iron a shirt and there are 9 possible ways to pronounce Khow meanings from Mat, to rice via Beautiful.

This is where text to text translation works better than voice, as yes its not exact, my Wife has just had a great chuckle at Google Translate calling Daaveed not David. However consider this.

your PC can do Text to speech, this is an old technology. Its how Stephen Hawkigs communicates and has had a few upgrades in recent years this principle works fairly well across languages i’m lead to belive.

So lets have technology cut out the middle man and here is an example of just how.

I speak into a headset, this uses text to speech (currently available on Google Translate) my words are now text, i’ve chosen the recepitant language, so the computer has helpfully translated that into Thai, Spanish, French.. And this is read back to the person at the other end.

I’ve spoken In english, he/she hears Thai, Spanish, French, the reply goes back the other way so they speak in Thai, Spanish, French and I hear English.

I’m sitting here on an Ipad dictating this, i’ve not typed anything in, the text is coming up fairly quickly, google translate is almost instant, and i believe there is a Business here..

So come on Internet, lets get the Universal VoIP translator on.. I need to speak with my Mother in law for the rist time in 10 years..


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