Google developing a translator for smartphones

Feb 09, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Android

(PhysOrg.com) -- Google is developing a translator for its Android smartphones that aims to almost instantly translate from one spoken language to another during phone calls.

Head of translation services at Google, Franz Och, said he believed almost instant speech-to-speech translation should be possible if the accuracy of and machine translation can be improved. He said Google is working on this, and he expected the technology to “work reasonably well” in a few years. There has been a great deal of progress in voice recognition and machine translation in recent years, especially the latter, thanks to funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Google's system would analyze speech in the same way as a human interpreter, listening to a package of speech to gather the full meaning before it attempts to translate. It will improve in accuracy the more it is used.

Google already has a website translation program for 52 languages, with an expanding database that continually improves its accuracy. It also has a voice recognition application for to allow users to search the web by speaking their commands into the phone. The new system will combine the two technologies, and will use the database Google has built up by crawling websites in different languages to improve its understanding of them.

Translation of speech will provide much bigger challenges than text translation, however. Mr Och said the task is difficult because everyone has a different voice, pitch, and speed of speaking. The huge variety of accents, dialects and colloquialisms also presents problems that some linguistics experts, such as David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University in Wales, consider insurmountable. If it does prove possible, and becomes available to the average user, it may help preserve languages and avoid a globalized language monoculture.

expects to release a “basic version” of the application in a couple of years. Apple’s iPhone already has a speech translator called Jibbigo, which is available for English/Spanish and English/Japanese.

Explore further: A new app facilitates number and arithmetic learning in children with special educational needs

Related Stories

Google adds automatic translation to Gmail

May 20, 2009

Google added automatic translation technology to Gmail on Tuesday, allowing users of its email service to translate messages in another language with a single mouse click.

Google voice search learns Chinese

Nov 02, 2009

Google's voice search tool now understands Chinese. The Internet giant announced on Monday that users of Nokia S60 series mobile phones could now search the Internet using voice commands in Mandarin Chinese.

Recommended for you

BPG image format judged awesome versus JPEG

20 hours ago

If these three letters could talk, BPG, they would say something like "Farewell, JPEG." Better Portable Graphics (BPG) is a new image format based on HEVC and supported by browsers with a small Javascript ...

Atari's 'E.T.' game joins Smithsonian collection

Dec 15, 2014

One of the "E.T." Atari game cartridges unearthed this year from a heap of garbage buried deep in the New Mexico desert has been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Yelmurc
not rated yet Feb 09, 2010
Apple and Google need to kiss and make up or Apple will have real problem in the future if Google doesn't allow the iPhone to use these features.
Chase_O_
5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2010
I love Google for pushing the future closer to Star Trek
http://i169.photo...ntry.jpg
jonnyboy
not rated yet Feb 09, 2010
Apple and Google need to kiss and make up or Apple will have real problem in the future if Google doesn't allow the iPhone to use these features.


Apple probably should have though about that before Jobs got up on that high horse of his, too bad Apple.
fixer
not rated yet Feb 10, 2010
A few years?
More like a few months!
There must be dozens of minor companies who would develop this tech.
Babelfish translator coupled to voice recognition typing is almost there already.
Apple and Google need to get the old finger out.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.