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Google phones to translate speech on the fly


By Ramsey DeHani

Posted on 8 Feb 2010 at 11:51

Google has announced plans to release voice-to-voice translation software for use on mobile phones.

The company is aiming to release a basic service within the next couple of years, according to reports, but acknowledges the difficulty of mapping the thousands of languages and dialects that exist around the world.

“Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch,” said Franz Och, head of translation services at Google, in an interview with The Times.

The phone should get a feel for your voice from past voice-search queries

“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,” he added, acknowledging that the system wouldn't function effectively without accurate voice-recognition software.

The new translation service will analyse “packages” of speech, listening to a full phrase or sentence until it understood the full meaning of what was being said.

Google already has voice-control options on its mobile search engine and an online text translator. However, the text system only recognises 52 languages (adding Haitian Creole last week), which does not come close to even the 230 languages spoken in Europe, many of which include a variety of dialects.

Och admits that full speech-to-speech translation will not be feasible until “a few years’ time”, but adds that the field is progressing quickly and that the wealth of data Google already has on different languages and speech patterns will go a long way to helping the company develop the software first.

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User comments

You go months reading about

regurgitated tech, all about as inspiring as the ipad. Then bang, you read something like this and then you realise why you read these columns! You know the ones that make you think bloody hell can they really do that!

puts a smile on your face doesn't it!

(yes I know it's google and yes they will be filtering your speech for contextual advertising but still you can't get more star trek than universal translators can you!)

By SimonCorlett on 8 Feb 2010


No matter what link I follow from this page, I get sent to Intel's site. Have you been hacked, or are Intel offering extra large amounts of money for click-throughs today?

By ramjam on 8 Feb 2010

Ramjam, I have adblocked that intel image - there was some sort of problem with it and firefox meaning I couldn't click anything but that image. I can only recommend you do the same. The links are correct, under the problematic intel image.

By Penguat on 8 Feb 2010

Which has now sorted itself out, at least for me.

By Penguat on 8 Feb 2010

Today it's Misco

9 Feb, 10:30, clicking any link on the PCPro page takes you to Misco. And I'm using Chrome. Not a browser fault methinks.

More to the point, can this Google system translate Teenage Mumble? Then I would be impressed.

By Noghar on 9 Feb 2010

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