Holy language gap, Batman! Google looks to be creating some pretty cool futuristic gadgets for its utility belt. Now, when Eric Schmidt puts out the Goog signal he can feel confident that ex-Google employees in all parts of the world will understand the signal without have to spend time changing out the filter on his light signal. (I had to use this picture again after all the trouble Andy went through to make it). This will all be made possible by Google’s translation tools that are moving toward translating voice on the fly.
Now, this technology is a few years away but The Times of London is bringing the project to our attention.
By building on existing technologies in voice recognition and automatic translation, Google hopes to have a basic system ready within a couple of years. If it works, it could eventually transform communication among speakers of the world’s 6,000-plus languages.
The folks at Google seem to feel that this is very doable. There are many naysayers, however, which are quoted in the article but also let themselves be heard in the comment string. First the confident Google version
“We think speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years’ time,” said Franz Och, Google’s head of translation services.
Now from the other camp.
However, some experts believe the hurdles to live translation remain high. David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University, said: “The problem with speech recognition is the variability in accents. No system at the moment can handle that properly.
“Maybe Google will be able to get there faster than everyone else, but I think it’s unlikely we’ll have a speech device in the next few years that could handle high-speed Glaswegian slang.
Whether this capability is ready in a few years or in 10 years it could be something that would be very interesting but in the same breath could be disturbing like it apparently was in the movie “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. In the movie, the Babel Fish device that could translate any language for users ended up creating some serious issues (a war) because everyone knew what everyone else was saying!
I’m not saying that life would imitate art but maybe what we don’t know won’t hurt us after all.