Google Working On Speech Translation for Phones


Remember the original Babel Fish in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Drop one in your ear and you can instantly understand any language you hear? Or the translator microbes in Farscape that “colonized the base of the brain” and let diverse species more-or-less understand each other’s speech? Or Star Trek’s universal translator? Mostly these were fantastical inventions to save writers (and actors) (and audiences!) the trouble of conceiving and speaking whole new languages…thus making their work more accessible and commercially viable. But now comes word Internet giant Google is working on just such a technology, aimed at near real-time translation of speech—into speech!

According to a report in The Times, Google is hoping to wed the speech recognition technology it has already developed to enable speech commands for its mobile services with computerized language translation to enable users to speak into a phone using their native language, then have their speech recognized, translated, and “spoken” back over the phone using a machine-generated voice. According to the piece, the software would work much like a professional human interpreter, analyzing speech in chunks or packages so the meaning of individual words becomes clear from context, then translating the whole meaning.

According to Franz Och, the head of Google’s translation services interviewed in the article, accurate speech recognition remains a sticky problem because of the sheer variety of human voices and accents, but mobile phones might give an edge to the technology because, by definition, they’re highly personal and therefore can theoretically adapt to individual users over time and get a feel for their voices and idioms. The increasing processing power available in phones is also a help: Google’s Nexus One ships with one of the fastest mobile processors available on the market, and the amount of CPU power and memory available to phones is only going to increase.

Google doesn’t anticipate having anything ready to go in the short term, but Ochs speculated that in a few years’ time speech-to-speech translation could be working “reasonably well.”


Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.

Go hands-free in Windows 10 with speech-to-text support

Looking for the dictation, speech-to-text, and voice control options in Windows 10? Here's how to set up Speech Recognition in Windows 10 and use it to go hands-free in a variety of different tasks and applications within Windows.

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.

The best smartphone stocking stuffers for a very techy Christmas

If you've got a tech-loving smartphone enthusiast to buy for, we can help you out. Here's a selection of top phone accessories that would make amazing stocking stuffers so you can have a very Merry Christmas.

Quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed

Looking for a few accoutrements to make your smartphone even better? If you, or someone you know, is a sucker for accessories, you'll want to check out our collection of quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed.

Ditch your smartphone for a year and win $100k from Vitaminwater

Vitaminwater is willing to part with $100,000 if you're willing to part with your smartphone partner for a year. Could you last for a year armed with only a 1996-era phone? Here's your chance to find out.

Walmart drops prices on Apple Watches and other fitness trackers

Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wearable heart rate monitors from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin are popular gifts. Wearables are smarter and more capable than in earlier years. We found the best wearables deals on Walmart.

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.

The best Wear OS watches

There are a ton of different Wear OS watches out there, but which one's right for you? No matter what you're looking for from a smartwatch, here are the best Wear OS watches out there.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.
Smart Home

This device detects when your pet is at the door and opens it for them

Tired of waiting for your dog to come inside, or running home in the middle of the day to let your four-legged friend out? Wayzn automatically opens sliding doors for your dog and gives you remote control.

Apple pushing update to iPhone in China in response to legal troubles

Apple has been facing legal issues in China due to alleged infringements of patents from Qualcomm Inc. On Friday, Apple announced it will push a software update in China in hopes of resolving any potential legal issues around the iPhone.