Google is prepping an update for its Google Translate mobile app that can potentially turn the utility into an indispensible tool for globetrotters, by incorporating real-time language speech-to-text translations.
An app update will allow users to start speaking to the app, which will then spit back a written translation of what was said, in the requested language, reported the New York Times. No more fumbling for how to say “can I have my passport back please,” or, “this is great cheese”—the instant nature of the functionality can become an almost concierge-like companion when traveling abroad.
Further, Google Translate already includes offline caching so that users can load the languages they know they will need — making the famously unpredictable international data roaming fees (and connection availability) a non-factor.
The times said that the update will also be able to recognize the language a user is speaking — right now, auto-detect is only available for written text, but a default language can be set.
The move is part of a groundswell of multilingual real-time communications of late that are getting us closer to the concept of a universal translator, a la Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
In December, Microsoft’s Skype started offering simultaneous English/Spanish translation services. Skype Translator translates multilingual voice calls in real time. This means that users can speak in their native tongue to someone who speaks a different language while Microsoft translates. More languages are planned for the app, which is in beta.
Also in December, LogMeIn announced a partnership with Lionbridge Technologies to bring real-time translation capabilities to BoldChat, LogMeIn’s multichannel and multi-device customer engagement offering.
LogMeIn will incorporate Lionbridge’s GeoFluent real-time translation within BoldChat’s live chat windows, so that sales and customer service staff get an instant translation of the online conversation. That way, online and mobile customers can get service in their native languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, and Japanese.