In Douglas Adam’s fun look at the future in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there is something he called the Babel Fish which was literally a small fish which “when inserted into the ear converted sound waves into brain waves, neatly crossing the language divide between any species you should happen to meet whilst traveling in space.”
As change continues at its exponential rate more and more of science fiction such as this becomes reality. While we are still some time away from full realtime audio translations, we continue to get closer and closer as some of the recent announcements from Google for example demonstrate. In the posting below you can see how Google Goggles enables you to take a picture of some text such as a menu item and have the image converted into text via OCR and then translated.
UPDATE: Here's a recently released video to show you all this and more:
And at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (Feb 15, 2010) Google CEO Eric Schmidt demonstrated some upcoming speech to text based translations where your can say a sentence into your phone for example and have this come out as translated text appearing on the screen. This in turn could be converted via text to speech so the person you are talking to could also hear it in their language. Real time translated conversations are likely still several years away, but examples like this show that it will likely be sooner than we expect.
However what caught more of my attention was his more general observation about the confluence of powerful devices connected to much more powerful 'cloud' servers to deliver
"things you can do that never occurred to you as being possible."
Quite right Eric and thanks for adding to the growing list of examples to my ongoing asking “What if the impossible isn’t?”
by Erick Schonfeld on Feb 16, 2010
In his keynote speech today at the Mobile Web Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Google CEO Eric Schmidt showed off what could end up being a crucial tool for anyone trying to figure out a menu in a different language or a street sign in a foreign country.Google Goggles, which creates search queries based on images instead of typed-in keywords, will soon start to be able to translate from foreign languages usingGoogle Translate. It will do this using optical character recognition to first convert the images of letters into words it can understand, and then put those through Google translate
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