For those of you that are into science fiction like me, one cannot help but wonder when watching reruns of Star Trek “…will Captain Kirk’s Universal Translator be a device of the future that I will get to use in my lifetime?” Well, I’m pleased to say that the answer is YES!
Earlier this week, Google released the latest version of Google Translate for Android (http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/12/android-translations/). However, the sizzle on the steak has to be a feature called “Conversation Mode”. Here’s how it works.
You hop into a taxi in Madrid. Unfortunately, your taxi driver doesn’t speak a word of English. No sweat! You fire up your Android device and say “Please take me to the airport”. Within a second, a voice magically appears from your Universal Translator… um, I mean Android device, and says in Spanish “por favor, llévame al aeropuerto”. Then, the taxi driver says “por supuesto. por favor, abróchense los cinturones de seguridad”. Your Android recognizes the Spanish words and utters “Of course. Please fasten your seat belt.”
Although this app, currently in its Alpha stage, is only available in Spanish and English, one can only imagine what we can expect to see in the coming months and years. Ultimately, this technology will be embedded into your actual phone calls.
Let’s say you’re in Tokyo and you call a local restaurant to make a dining reservation. While you’re speaking in English, the maître d’ hears your voice speaking Japanese. He responds in Japanese and you hear his voice in English confirm your reservation. The possibilities are endless.
One of the reasons I’ve always been a science fiction fan is that it encourages me to look to the future and ask “what if?”. Think of how Star Trek has inspired inventors and technologists to convert science fiction into science fact:
Phasers on Stun! = Tasers
On Screen Mr. Sulu = Telepresence
Beam Me Up Scotty = … well, that’s still to come
~ Theo Szymanski