Not science fiction
Skype is making steady progress in the instant translation market
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.
MY MEANING: Reducing chance of being lost in translation.