Engage! Google’s 'Universal Translator' Coming To Alpha Quadrant Via Translate App

Microsoft may have activated its warp core in mid-December with a preview of the Skype Translator, which can translate Skype video chats in English and Spanish, but Google isn’t too far behind with its own real-time voice translation service. The New York Times is reporting that the Google Translate app will soon be updated to automatically translate spoken language into text on your smartphone’s screen. 

The Google Translate app can already recognize dozens of languages -- inputted by voice or by your smartphone’s keyboard -- and output it as text. This latest update takes at least one step out of the process by automatically recognizing the spoken language without you having to manually select it on your own.

The current Google Translate app for Android

Back in 2013, Hugo Barra, who was then Google’s Product Management Director (he’s now at Xiaomi), demoed a version of Google Translate that could function in “conversation” mode, allowing near-instant person-to-person language translation. In the video below, Hugo Barra spoke in English, while his on-stage guest spoke in German. The results were quite impressive, to say the least.

We don’t know if the upcoming Google Translate app will introduce this conversation functionality, but it would be a boon for the 500 million users that actively use the app each month. It should also be noted that Google is also working on a service that allows you to “hold your phone up to a foreign street sign and create an automatic translation on the screen.”

Breaking down language barriers makes our vast world just a little bit smaller, and I must applaud companies like Microsoft and Google which are making it downright easy for us to communicate in ways that we only dreamt were possible just a half century ago.