Are Audio-Only Social Networks The New In-Thing?
You want to hear your favorite celebrities talking about their new film. No, it’s not a TED Talk. It’s a new feature on Twitter, taken from the Silicon Valley hit app, Clubhouse. You can “drop-in” live on these audio-chats, wherever you are in the world. In this post-pandemic culture, we need social gatherings available at a heartbeat. Is this our way of coping, tuning in to whatever is happening, to whoever is talking? It’s like the radio except you can join in. It’s like a podcast, except you determine the content. It’s like a video conference call, but you don’t have to dress up.
Twitter is getting space in the news this week for widening its test audience for its new feature, Spaces, to Android users. Previously, it was only available for IOS users. It got the idea from Clubhouse, the invite-only app used by entrepreneurs and billionaires like Elon Musk (who popped up in a Clubhouse room last month). Spaces has the look, and the feel of Clubhouse, but will be available fully to the public. How are Clubhouse’s and Twitter’s Spaces’ live stream of audio and audio-only chat rooms going to change the way we interact with each other when they’re fully integrated into the public?
Are these live audio-only social networks the new social media of the future? Imagine, instead of writing text, you’ll be talking on your phone, reaching people in your network at once. How will social media marketing and SEO work on your voice? Will our newsfeed turn into a live audio feed? Most likely, gaging by the popularity of Clubhouse, which was downloaded 2.3 million times last month alone.
How Will Audio-Only Social Networks Integrate Translation?
And yet, there is one question to ask: what happens when the people are gathering at Clubhouse or Spaces from different parts of the world, speaking different languages? How will netizens of the world, with its more than 7000 languages, understand each other? At the moment, no word on whether these platforms could accommodate translation.
According to Tomedes CEO Ofer Tirosh, there are ways to integrate language translation to audio-only social platforms like Clubhouse and Twitter, although it’s never been done before. There is a need for real-time translation and simultaneous interpreters to work with businesses and individuals using these platforms. Ofer Tirosh has opened up the idea of real-time voice translators who will talk and speak only in the ear of the client so that only the speaker could hear. These in-ear translators can pick up specific languages automatically then interpret in the ears of the two listeners.
This is in-ear speech-to-speech translation technology has many challenges, though, Ofer notes. First of all, these in-ear translators have limited language pairings. Secondly, they make mistakes in language translation. Thirdly, in-ear translators only account for a two-way conversation at the moment. How can you use these in Clubhouse and Spaces when there are up to 10 people talking and listening in?
Ofer Tirosh also points out that live interpretation isn’t the only consideration for language translation in these platforms. There’s also text translation of the transcription, which at the moment of testing, Twitter Spaces doesn’t allow. Spaces’ text transcription is automated by tools, so the content isn’t editable; it simply picks up and transcribes the content, with no room for translation. So, there definitely is a need for this.
Additionally, Ofer mentioned a way to integrate language translation would be a combination of text and audio: for example, the user could input text in their language, then an automated voice would then translate their words into the platform. This method would be ideal for those who don’t want to use their own voice but would like to be on audio-only platforms. This model would also suit the hearing-impaired user.
Changing The Language Industry One Audio Drop-In At A Time
These social media networks could change not only language translation and interpretation, but also localization. Localization would work on a grander scale, making the specialized field of audio localization a general requirement for software, websites, and apps. Technology is changing, fast, and needs to solve issues of language translation within these audio-only platforms.
There are also issues of content moderation with both Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. How will it moderate content, so we’re not hearing violent content? It hasn’t been perfect, so far. How will translators handle content that isn’t moderated? And, will there be speaking manners, or ways of speaking to one another that are appropriate, that become part of audio live chats and audio content?
Video and audio platforms have been around for a while now. Think Zoom, where you can choose to conduct a business conference audio-only (you can even mute participants). Think Discord, where you can connect with friends on live audio-only chat. Why are these audio-only platforms, Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, in particular, creating such a buzz right now? One reason for their popularity may be their exclusivity: invite-only for Clubhouse, and testing in only underrepresented and minority groups for Twitter Spaces. Another reason may be that their sole purpose is audio, unlike Zoom, Discord, and Skype. Will their popularity only grow, or will it decline after the fad is over?
No matter what, audio-only social networks are popular right now, and would make us connect with the world in a different way. The language industry is bound to change--from customer service audio-only live chats to interactive-audio language learning to multilingual audio-only digital feeds to the new role of social media audio-only interpreters and translators to the rise of freelance voice actors.
There’s a ton of new roles, new platforms, and new methods that will incorporate audio-only social networks in the future. It is bound to change the language industry, the field of translation, global businesses, and their consumers, all over the world.
Tomedes is poised to handle the changes this will bring to our industry, and equipped to handle the way it will change how we communicate with one another. Audio-only social networks may modify the ways in which business and their clients communicate, but our objectives remain the same: to broaden the horizons of language, translation, localization, and the world.