CUTTING THROUGH THE BABEL
Google has transformed CES into a Disneylike theme park — complete with singing animatronic macarons — to showcase new features of its voice-enabled digital assistant.
This includes an “interpreter mode” that enables some of Google’s smart home devices to work as a translator. It’s being piloted at a hotel concierge desk near the Las Vegas tech conference and rolls out to consumer devices in several weeks.
Voice assistants are getting pretty good at translating speech into text, but it’s a thornier challenge in artificial intelligence to enable real-time translation across different languages. Google’s new feature expands upon real-time translation services it’s rolled out to Android phones and headphones over the past year.
This is the second year that Google Assistant had made a huge splash at CES in an effort to outbid Amazon’s Alexa as the voice assistant of choice.
Google this year has an amusement park ride that resembles Disney’s “It’s a Small World,” though on a roller-coaster-like train at slow speeds. Talking and singing characters showcase Google’s various voice-assistant features as visitors ride along.
Google isn’t the only CES exhibitor promising the next generation of instant translation. Chinese AI firm iFlytek has been showing of its translation apps and devices that are already popular among Chinese travelers. And at least two startups, New York-based Waverly Labs and China-based TimeKettle, are promoting their earbuds that work as in-ear translation devices.