It's the stuff of Star Trek. Japanese telecoms giant Docomo believes its ready to unleash an app that will translator English, Japanese and Korean in real time on phone calls. This is one of the most stunning announcements we've heard, in any language. KitGuru 聞くための準備.
Companies like Dragon Speak have been working on voice recognition software for a very long time. Working versions were already available in the market in the mid-1990s, although a decent Scottish/Geordie accent was often enough to throw them off the train completely.
These days, we expect to be able to ask Siri “Where can I find the nearest Pizza Hut” and for it to provide directions.
By the start of November, a native Japanese and native English speaker will be able to put an Android smartphone between them, speak in their own languages, and have the translation come through instantly.
The same will happen remotely. The application has the snazzy sounding name Hanashite Hon’yaku.
According to a statement from Docomo, “Hanashite Hon’yaku also can be used for face-to-face conversations in which the two speakers share one smartphone. French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai will be added for this application in late November, raising the number of non-Japanese languages to 10”.
The processing happens in the cloud, so almost any Smartphones will be able to enjoy Hanashite Hon’yaku.
That means that landlines will also benefit from this technology.
While the Japanese are certainly taking a lead in terms of ‘first to market', it seems that Microsoft is hot on their heals with the technology – and French telecoms specialist Alacatel-Lucent is promising to have around 12 languages available at launch soon – including Arabic and French. Useful if you wanted to order a ‘menu prix fixe' in Marseilles.
The French version has another advantage, called MyVoice, which allows you to create a synthesised version of your own voice so you can kind of sound like you on the phone, when speaking fluently in a language you've never seen before. Nice trick if you can manage it.
Given Docomo's lead in 4G/L:TE technology, should we expect T-Mobile/Orange users to have this technology first in the UK?
KitGuru says: We already have the tablet computers from Star Trek, as well as the slidy doors. Warp Drive and Teleporting might take a little longer, but with an instantaneous verbal communication translator in play – we're one step closer to living on the Enterprise.
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