Japan firm launches real-time telephone translation

October 22, 2012
A Model displays NTT Docomo's new smartphone. Japan's biggest mobile operator has said it will launch a translation service that lets people chat over the telephone in several different languages.

Japan's biggest mobile operator said Monday it will launch a translation service that lets people chat over the telephone in several different languages.

The application for subscribers will give two-way voice and text readouts of conversations between Japanese speakers and those talking in English, Chinese or Korean with a several-second delay, the firm said.

"Hanashite Honyaku" will be a free application that can be used on smartphones and with the Android operating system, DoCoMo said.

Customers will also be able to call landlines using the service, it said, adding that voice-to-text readouts will soon be available in French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

"We hope that with this application, our subscribers will be able to widen the range of their communication," a company spokeswoman said.

However, she conceded the service does not offer perfect translations and has trouble deciphering some dialects.

DoCoMo also said it has launched a separate service that lets users translate menus and signage using the smartphone camera.

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3.8 / 5 (5) Oct 22, 2012
Another bit of science fiction coming true. In the words of my kids, "this is epic".
5 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2012
You've got to start small. One of my side-jobs at uni (back in 1998 or thereabouts) was to transcribe newscasts for language recognition software. The aim was to build up a vocabulary for just such an system but with very limited scope (businesspeople conversing by phone about meetings and such, where one side spoke german and the other side spoke english).

From a CS standpoint it worked pretty well (86% correct recognition and translation rate at the time I was there) but from a usability standpoint 86% isn't enough. And those last few percent are really where it's at.

If they did get this to work to the point where it's really useable then big kudos to them!
not rated yet Oct 23, 2012
Awesome in theory, but I wonder how accurate the service is. In order to trust it, I'd have to be fluent in the language myself. I'd hate for something to be misinterpreted, especially since the program isnt able to comprehend context.


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