Google on Wednesday began turning Android-powered smartphones into interpreters with experimental software that lets the handsets translate conversations in real time.
An in-the-works version of "Conversation Mode" was made available as the California-based Internet giant updated a text translation feature it added to Android smartphones a year ago.
"In conversation mode, simply press the microphone for your language and start speaking," product manager Awaneesh Verma said in a blog post.
"Google Translate will translate your speech and read the translation out loud. Your conversation partner can then respond in their language, and you'll hear the translation spoken back to you."
Conversation Mode only translates between English and Spanish for now, and factors such as regional dialects, background noise, or fast talking could vex translations, he warned.
"Even with these caveats, we're excited about the future promise of this technology to be able to help people connect across languages," Verma said.
"As Android devices have spread across the globe, we've seen Translate for Android used all over."
The majority of people using Translate are outside the United States, with daily use of the feature taking place in more than 150 countries, according to the Google product manager.
Translate supports 53 languages in text and Android devices handle voice recognition in 15 languages, Verma said.
(c) 2011 AFP