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Google 'working on universal translator'

Hands-on with Google's futuristic language app

I have to wonder sometimes if there's a limit to where Google will go. I can't deny that I'm often cheering them on as they gobble up companies, scan every book ever published and apparently turn a smartphone into a universal translator, as reported by New Scientist.

An update to Google's Translate app for Android lets you translate a conversation from one language to another. I downloaded it today to test it out, and it is very simple.

You type or say the initial phrase in whatever language you choose (well, you can currently choose English or Spanish), and it will spell out and give the option to allow it to say the phrase itself. For example, I turned on the microphone and spoke "Hello, my name is Jason." It thought for a second, and then did a speech to text translation (correctly for once) in the text box and repeated it in written Spanish below, with a speaker button I could then press to have the sentence translated as audio.

In the Conversation mode, you would then hand the phone to whomever you were speaking with, and they would repeat the process in the other language.

My Spanish must be especially terrible pronunciation-wise because the best I could get it to think I was saying was "Cuba, how are you?" when I repeated "Hola, como estas?" half a dozen times. The intent is clear, though, and brilliant through its simplicity. It even puts the conversation in a convenient bubble format:

Google Translate

To me this is the best thing since sliced bread. The only issue I have at all with it is that handing an expensive phone over to a stranger I can't understand seems questionable. I'm willing to cross that bridge when I come to it, though.

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