A phone that translates 6,000 languages in real time, really?

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The Independent Tech

Google is getting all futuristic on us with plans to implement Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-worthy mobile phone translation software in the next generation of telecommunications gadgets.

The Times Online reports that the internet giant has been developing new translation software for mobile phones that will see two people from different sides of the world able to converse in real time, without needing to speak the same language.

Talk about a super phone, the next generation of mobile devices is going to be worthy of the uberphone label if Google can overcome and humanize the awkward and inappropriate results generated by today's automated mechanical translations and effectively implement live translation services in handsets.

The technology is still in its concept phase but given the steps Google has already taken with its online text-to-text translation service, and more recently with its voice-to-text GoogleVoice technology, it shouldn't be too long before we start to see this technology implemented into tomorrow's smartphones.

"We think speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years' time," Franz Och, Google's head of translation services, told the Times Online on February 7.

"Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch," explained Och. "But recognition should be effective with mobile phones because by nature they are personal to you. The phone should get a feel for your voice from past voice search queries, for example."

One can imagine Google's vision of the future somewhat resembling the high-tech, yet quirky world depicted in Douglas Adams' cult science fiction series  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - and now with its own Babel Fish translator, that slightly eccentric Google vision is nearing ever-closer to completion.

Google, however, is not the only one working on real-time voice-to-voice translation software. In June 2009 a company called Sakhr announced it was pioneering and developing "the world's richest knowledge base for Arabic natural language processing."

Sakhr has already garnered a list of high-profile companies (including the US Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice) who have started to put its instant translation service to the test on the Blackberry and iPhone mobile phone platforms.

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/personal_tech/article7017831.ece

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