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Google’s ‘Babel fish’ to prevent travellers being lost in translation

Posted by Lee Hayhurst on
Google’s ‘Babel fish’ to prevent travellers being lost in translation

Google is poised to solve the problem of language barriers for travellers with devices that enable real-time conversations conducted in two different languages.

The Times newspaper today quotes the search giant’s president of software for mobile devices Hugo Barra as saying it is working on “tonnes of prototypes”.

The report likened what Google intends to create to the ‘Babel fish’, which featured in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and allowed the user to understand any language when inserted into the ear.

Google’s vision is for mobile devices to become ‘universal translators’ allowing users to speak into them in one language but the output being in another.

Barra said that the technology was still in its early stages but that some translations – between English and Portuguese, for example – were “near perfect”.

However, the technology has to be able to pick up different dialects and works less well if there is too much background noise, like traffic through an open window.

The Times said mobile translation was thought to be part of Google’s ‘Now’ project which is an attempt to personalise the search experience based on known user data and preferences and current geographic location.

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