Google about to reveal real-time speech translation app

12 Jan 2015

Internet search giant Google is preparing to reveal a new mobile translation app that recognises speech in various languages and turns them into text.

The move comes hot on the heels of Microsoft’s video conferencing service Skype demonstrating simultaneous translation between English and Spanish speakers.

According to the New York Times Google is preparing an update to its own translation app Google Translate.

At present Google Translate can provide written translation of 90 languages and is capable of hearing a number of spoken languages and translating them.

In the update the app will automatically recognise is somebody is speaking a popular language like English or Spanish and automatically turn it into written text.

Google’s Translate app has been downloaded more than 100m times to Android phones and the company has 500m active users of Translate a month across all platforms.

In addition Google’s Chrome browser can automatically translate a number of languages while there are 140 different language settings in Gmail, including as Gaeilge.

To boldly go …

Almost four years ago, Microsoft bought Skype for US$8.5bn and one of the unexpected fruits of that acquisition has been revealed in the form of a real-time translation tool which is the result of combining Skype’s and Microsoft’s Translations team.

In May last year Microsoft revealed that it is working on a technology very similar to the Universal Translator device made famous in Star Trek.

The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice-versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition.

At the time Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, said that Skype Translator will first be available as a Windows 8 beta app.

“Its potential is every bit as exciting as those Star Trek examples. Skype Translator opens up so many possibilities to make meaningful connections in ways you never could before in education, diplomacy, multilingual families and in business,” Pall said at the time.

Skype has more than 300m users across the world, and more than 2bn minutes of conversation take place every day on PCs, tablets, smartphones and connected TVs.

Languages image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years