Remember those old Star Trek (the original version) episodes when Captain Kirk and company would encounter an alien race that didn’t speak English (although most of them did)? They would pull out a handheld device they called the Universal Translator that provided instant understanding, whatever the language.
It’s just one more example of how technology has caught up with science fiction. In fact, technology is starting to pull ahead. We just read about a nifty new system called the Pilot earpiece from Waverly Labs that lets two people communicate just by speaking their separate languages. They both wear wireless earbuds linked to a smartphone app that does the translating, but the voice output goes to the earbuds, not the phone’s speaker. Here’s a video demonstration. (See below)
Waverly Labs will start an Indiegogo campaign this month to help fund development, and the product is expected to be on the market this fall at a cost of $250-$300.
The granddaddy of translation apps is Google Translate, used by hundreds of millions of people. That product just announced some upgrades, including a feature called Tap to Translate, initially on the Android version. Instead of having to copy and paste a web page or email in a foreign language, users can now just tap a button that automatically calls up the translation app to present the words in English (or any of the 103 languages that Google Translate can handle).
In addition, Google now offers the Offline Mode of Google Translate for iOS devices as well as Android phones, and has shrunk the size of the offline package to take up less space on the phone. The company also expanded its Word Lens feature – which uses the phone’s camera to read and translate signs or menus in a foreign language – to include Chinese.
Google Translate has been able to handle bilingual spoken conversations since last year, translating voices between two languages. Here’s a guide to how that works.
And of course there are other similar products in the market, like the well-regarded iTranslate.
Readers: Have you used a translation app during your travels? Which one? Did it work well or present problems?
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