Google Translate

28th January 2015

Google have recently announced a huge update for their translation app, creatively titled Google Translate. While previously the app could accurately translate words, phrases and even long pieces of text typed into the app with a high degree of accuracy, Google have demonstrated their vision of the future with the new updates.

Google acquired Word Lens last year, and will be integrating the camera translation app into Google Translate. This means that by simply pointing your device’s camera at a piece of printed text or signage, the translation in your chosen language is replicated almost identically in a new image. This really is impressive and cuts the time taken to input foreign text and receive the translation dramatically.

Real Time Speech

Along with this upgrade, the conversation translation has greatly improved – the app is now able to translate speech in real time. Users manually enter the languages being spoken and then begin to talk. The app automatically translates, detecting the languages spoken, without having to take a break in the conversation. There is a review of the app on the PC World website. They say:

“[Google claims] it has improved things by automatically recognizing which of the two languages is being spoken. This would do away with the button presses required to interrupt a conversation in previous versions”.

Sentences and phrases are translated with remarkable accuracy however, for all the streamlining and speeding up of processes, there do appear to be some stumbling blocks for the conversation feature. This video from Mashable demonstrates what we mean.

Skype vs Google

Google’s focus on translation is in direct competition to Microsoft’s Skype Translator Beta. The Skype software translates speech in real time when communicating via the app with a foreign speaker. As with Google Translate, there are some slight hitches, but on the whole it seems to work well. The longer the sentence, the better the translator performs, due to the extra context it is given to work with. The good thing about Google Translate is the fact that only one person needs the app to be able to translate the conversation, whereas to translate via Skype both participants would need separate devices.

As both companies are ironing out the creases, different features may come and go in order to create the best possible product. Apps competing against each other can only be a good thing, and will ultimately end up providing us with better software. It’s obvious that at the moment, translation apps are not accurate enough to be used in more formal circumstances, however what’s to say that one day they can’t replace human translators? They could provide a cost effective and logistical solution for a whole host of industries, without the risk of personal bias that human translators may be exposed to.

With the technology that Google and Microsoft are developing now, it’s quite easy to image a future where phone calls are translated instantly with a minimum of interruption or fuss. Very exciting!