Once designated to the realm of science fiction, simultaneous translation may soon become a communication reality for global speakers.
Last month, Microsoft’s Skype calling service launched simultaneous translation between English and Spanish speakers, so each caller can speak in her native language and have the speech immediately translated for the listener. Now in response, Google says its translation app will soon be updated to include a similar feature.
See also: How Google Translate Works Its Magic
Simultaneous audio translation is simply the most advanced step in technology’s quest to eliminate communication barriers. You may have already used the automatic translation feature in Chrome to translate a page in Russian, for example, to English. Microsoft’s Bing Translation engine does a similar task for Twitter and Facebook.
Quentin Hardy, who reviewed Skype’s simultaneous translation feature for the New York Times, said the service still had a few “downright terrible” (or “downright herbal” as Skype translated) errors to work out, though it’s on the right track.
“Those complaints are churlish compared with what also seemed like a fundamental miracle: Within minutes, I was used to the process and talking freely with a Colombian man about his wife, children and life in Medellín,” he said.
Photo by Trane DeVore