Simultaneous Computer Translation Isn't Just For Star Trek

January 16, 2013

By Ofer Tirosh

 

Many Star Trek fans that used to think that translation devices that translated alien language into English were just Science Fiction are about to be proven wrong. While aliens may not exist, foreign languages do and it’s now nearly possible to translate languages simultaneously using a computer.

Leading the way is Microsoft, along with an array of smaller, private investors, making the claim that nearly-perfect simultaneous computer translation is a thing of the very near future.  This news comes much to the dismay of those who make their living translating for others.

A demonstration in England over the summer showed that a conversation between English and Spanish speakers could be translated quite accurately, if both spoke slowly and articulately. Then in November, a Japanese telephone computer created a service that translates phone calls between Japanese and English. But most notable, was Microsoft’s live demonstration of Rick Rashid, the chief research officer, speaking in English and his words being translated into Mandarin Chinese.

While some problems still remain for real world application, such as slang words, people talking over one another and background noise, the prospect of such a translator isn’t that far off.  At the very least, these translators sure beat the old days of Babelfish or Google Translate, which can lead to common translation errors and miscommunication. Full coverage on these translators can be found at; http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21569014-simultaneous-translation-computer-getting-closer-conquering-babel 

 

 

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