Transclick is a mobile enterprise application that translates text in email, SMS and IM. The software has been around for a while (see this CNNMoney.com article from March 2005), but is now starting to make waves as a business productivity tool. RIM Blackberry just announced Transclick as the winner of its BlackBerry Developer Productivity Tools Challenge and they were a runner-up in the Skype Developer Contest recently.
Business Use Cases
For the Blackberry version of Transclick, the translation tool that can be applied to any outgoing email or SMS message from the BlackBerry device and caters to 15 languages.
Transclick is obviously handy for translating emails and SMS on the fly. Possible use cases are: you work for a multinational company and have frequent communication across borders; or you are a member of a startup that outsources work to other countries (very common in the web industry now).
They claim to have 150 dictionaries in English to/from 16 languages - which CEO Robert Levin told me "makes our translation of SMS, email and IM more accurate than text translated on Babelfish, which is not integrated seamlessly with SMS, email and IM." In terms of their business model, Levin told me it is subscriptions ($3 to $15 per month per user) and licensing ($150,000 to $500,000 for a server farm) - "including 32 language directions, load balancing on a carrier grade system and access to 150 vertical market dictionaries for higher accuracy."
Customization and Web app integration
Transclick is also able to be customized so that it translates technical or business terms. In fact they have patents around this technology. Levin told me via email:
"We have a patent for adding customized dictionaries that are context-sensitive and produce superior translation to free translation services online. There is a lot of demand for this: free translation services already translate 300 million texts with 3 billion words per month and Transclick is uniquely positioned with a patent, seasoned management and major partners (RIM, Skype, Qualcomm and several large carriers) to execute on a for-profit business model. We are getting traction now with large wireless carriers who want to share revenue with us as they globalize their collaboration services."
One example of Transclick integrating with a Web app is its use as a Skype add-on, as described a few months ago on the eBay Developers Program blog:
"It's an app that plugs into Skype Chat and provides real time translation between a dozen different languages. There's also a glossary function that lets you look up less common technical terms--useful for getting into deep discussions about your eBay category, or your specific area of technology. A Skype Voice plug-in is not available yet, but the patents are in place, and it's only a matter of time."
Robert Levin told me they have had over 6,000 downloads from the Skype Extras Gallery and they're in the process of certifying their application to place it on the Skype toolbar. As for other partnerships, apart from the obvious carriers business, they're negotiating with Sony to enter into a Strategic Alliance and they have deals with Yahoo enterprise IM and Googletalk.
As noted in a Forbes article from a year ago, Transclick does not currently handle voice-to-voice translation. However the problem is being worked on, as Robert Levin told Forbes last year:
"But Levin says the first systems, developed for "dirty travel survival," like using the cell phone to give cab drivers directions in Chinese, will be ready within two years. Levin is currently working on voice-to-text translations that will allow tourists to speak a question into their cell phones. Translated Chinese text will then appear on the cell screen for another person to read. True speech-to-speech translation, albeit with limited vocabulary, will be ready by the end of the decade."
In summary, this is the kind of technology that I love to cover on Read/WriteWeb - truly innovative and trying to solve a large real-world problem. Transclick also has a cool developers program and a range of subscription products. It's an international company, with a team of 14 developers in Bulgaria at Transclick Labs and sales teams across the world (their US sales team is based in Chicago).
Transclick is a company to watch out for and I'm interested in seeing how close they get to doing voice-to-voice translations. That would be a huge breakthrough, for whoever solves it first!