Not sci­ence fic­tion

Skype is mak­ing steady progress in the in­stant trans­la­tion mar­ket

Central and North Burnett Times - - WEB WORLD - By David Crookes

SKYPE Trans­la­tor prom­ises to au­to­mat­i­cally trans­late mul­ti­lin­gual voice calls and it has the po­ten­tial to rev­o­lu­tionise the way we talk to people whose lan­guage we do not share.

While trans­la­tion pro­grams al­ready ex­ist, the vast ma­jor­ity rely on the two people con­vers­ing to be in the same room at the same time. A per­son will talk in one lan­guage, in­di­cate via a but­ton or pause that they have fin­ished talk­ing and then get a trans­la­tion the other per­son can un­der­stand.

What Skype Trans­la­tor will do is al­low people to have flu­ent, re­mote phone con­ver­sa­tions, with each side hear­ing the words spo­ken in the lan­guage they un­der­stand. As one of a num­ber of com­pa­nies work­ing on the tech­nol­ogy – the pre­dom­i­nant mo­bile phone net­work in Ja­pan NTT DoCoMo al­ready has such a sys­tem run­ning and Google is hop­ing to per­fect re­al­time calls over the next few years – Skype is set to make a mas­sive im­pact given it has more than a third of the in­ter­na­tional call mar­ket and 300 mil­lion users world­wide.

Skype’s ser­vice is not a new con­cept. Call In­ter­pre- ter by Lex­i­fone, launched last year, lets you call an ac­cess num­ber, dial the per­son you want to speak to and chat flu­ently in your own lan­guage, con­vert­ing it into an­other.

But Lex­i­fone’s re­cep­tion wasn’t great, with crit­ics say­ing it was frus­trat­ing. When Skype launches Trans­la­tor it will be on a limited beta so we can ex­pect teething prob­lems.

“It is early days for this tech­nol­ogy but the Star Trek vi­sion for a Uni­ver­sal Trans­la­tor isn’t a galaxy away and its po­ten­tial is ev­ery bit as ex­cit­ing,” says Gur­deep Pall, vice-pres­i­dent of Skype.

Businesses com­pete in a global mar­ket and ideas are shared across coun­tries. Mi­gra­tion cre­ates mul­ti­lin­gual so­ci­eties that bring their own needs.

Much of the de­mand for trans­la­tion has re­sulted from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In both coun- tries there was a lack of mil­i­tary, diplo­matic and in­tel­li­gence per­son­nel con­ver­sant in lan­guages such as Ara­bic, Dari, Pashto and Urdu. In 2007, IBM’s speech-to-speech trans­la­tion soft­ware was in­tro­duced by US forces in Iraq. A de­mand such as this has only in­ten­si­fied the amount of re­search time and money be­ing spent on ma­chine trans­la­tion.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

MY MEAN­ING: Re­duc­ing chance of be­ing lost in trans­la­tion.

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