Vocre is a new iPhone app that is trying to make real-time speech translation a reality, and if their videos are any accurate representation of how the app actually functions, they’re doing a bang-up job. The way it works is by taking what you’ve said, converting it to text, using its own machine translation to translate it to the specified language, and then actually saying it via iSpeech. All you have to do is select the language and the gender of the person you’re talking to and Vocre (apparently) does the rest.
The actual implementation is a little awkward in that the translation is triggered by accelerometer. It makes sense to a certain extent; you lean the iPhone towards you to talk into it, then towards your coversation partner which triggers the translation and gets the microphone into position for them to talk. Still, I can imagine situations in which being required to do this would be awkward.
And that’s only a minor concern considering that translation technology is notoriously bad at picking up on slang and idioms. Of course, that problem might be mitigated if the technology were to become pervasive enough that people realize you’re using a translator and not just shoving an iPhone in your face. In that case, speakers would know to keep it simple and avoid terms like “brodawg,” “duderino,” and “why are you shoving that phone all up in my face?” (And their foreign equivalents.)
Downloading the app will net you 10 free translations, and additional sets of 10 can be purchased for 99 cents a pack. The app is currently available in the U.S. App Store only and your phone needs to be set to American English to use it. If you fit that bill though, it provides support for English (U.S., British and Australian varities), Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Of course, there are plans to increase the number of options in the future and Vocre even has hopes (high ones) of ultimately providing real-time phone call translation services. I’ll believe that when I see it. All that being said, here’s to hoping Vocre works as well as it seems like it does, or at least works well by the time I get an iPhone 20 years down the road.
Also, do French dudes really do stuff like that? Someone enlighten me.
Also also, check out TechCrunch for video of an actual demonstration.
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