Google Glass is getting a lot of press recently, and I think that Google has a winner on its hands. I predict that Google Glass will become the new iPhone-everybody will want one and will be willing to pay a premium price to own one. And like the iPhone, Google will release a new version twice a year and make big bucks like Apple did. Google stock will probably go up like crazy as a result.
But since this blog is about translation, I wanted to focus on some of the translation features we can expect in Google Glass.
Read menus, road signs, posters in foreign countries. Remember Word Lens? Even though the app is awesome it still requires you to hold the phone at a certain angle, look at your smartphone and wait until the on-screen text is steadily displayed. This takes a few seconds and must be repeated for everything you want to read. On Google Glass, the translation will be probably done so fast that you won’t even see the foreign language, just the translation in real-time. And the view will be just as sharp as anything you see when wearing a pair of glasses.
Speech-to-speech. Remember the universal translator everyone is dreaming about? Google Glass brings this vision closer than ever since it has a speaker and microphone built-in to it. No need to hold a phone, speak into it, worry about background noise and wait for the playback. The hardware aspects of the universal translators will be light years ahead of anything on the market now.
International GPS Navigation. Finding your way around town will be so easy with Google Glass. You’ll never need to ask directions from people who don’t speak your language again. Want to find that Malaysian restaurant in Jakarta? Google Glass will probably get you there easier than ever.
TV and Movies. Ever get stuck in a hotel with no CNN or Sky News? Google Glass will probably let you watch TV shows and movies with translated subtitles or even dubbing. Google already has the basic technology for this, so integrated it into Google Glass will make it better than ever.
App developers anyone? Just like all the translation iPhone apps that came out, savvy developers are probably already looking into developing for Google Glass. So we will probably see some interesting Google Glass translation apps out there when the product launches in 2014.
The translation startup space is expanding. Last month, Japanese translation company MyGengo announced that it had raised an additional $5.25 Million in funding to develop their online translation platform. This brings the total capital raised by MyGengo to $7 Million. No small amount. Website translation company Smartling recently raised an additional $10 Million. With war chests that large, these companies are likely to challenge the localization industry in many ways.
It now appears that MyGengo may be feeling the heat from another Asian translation startup called OneSky. And while the implementation each company offers may differ somewhat, these companies share a common vision: to enable software companies to reach new markets-especially in Asian countries-by offering cost-competitive software localization services bundled in online API tools that integrate with the client’s development process.
OneSky’s website provides online quotes for professional translation on their Home page. This can be done either by pasting in text or by uploading software string files. The quotes are provided by translation companies that partner with OneSky. In providing this service, OneSky functions similarly to Cloudwords: another startup I wrote about last September.
For software companies interested in ongoing localization or crowdsourcing, OpenSky offers a localization management system with several pricing tiers and integration options: OneSky offers an API which connects the software app to OneSky’s management server. The strings are translated on OneSky’s server and then populated into the software app. Since this process is dynamic, new or modified strings in the source code are detected and automatically sent to the OneSky platform. All translation done on the OneSky platform are sent to the software application and automatically updated. The OneSky platform also offers crowdsourcing options which enable the users of the software to vote on translations; the voting mechanism can be setup to control the localization process and update translations based on user feedback.
OneSky offers a wide range of libraries for the various development environments, web and mobile platforms. The most popular ones are covered: this includes the iPhone and Android mobile platforms. The OneSky blog brings several case studies and testimonials from software companies that have used OneSky’s platform for localization management and crowdsourcing. These success stories indicate that OneSky is a company we may hear of more in the future.
Startup companies are great. Apple Computers and Google are examples of startups that have changed the world. But a startup that launches a product which is purely a Me-Too concept? Surely we can live without it.
Case in point is a company named myLanguage that launched an iPhone app called Vocre. Here is the promotional video (which uses a theme that has been used ad nauseam in countless videos: a boy asking a cute French girl for a date, how original).
This company has combined the voice recognition and speech API from Nuance with the Google Translate API to create a speech-to-speech voice interpreter. There is nothing innovative at all about this app. Moreover, it is quite user-unfriendly when you start using it. I spent about 10 minutes trying to get it to work and had to find a video on the Internet that showed me how to use it. OK, so once you get the hang of it the app performs well and translated the few sentences I tried without any troubles. But you can get the same function using the Google Translate iPhone app which has been out for months. And using Google’s app is 100% free while Vocre charges $0.99 for each 10 translations. Why would any sane person pay for something that is available for free?
Translation by Vocre
Google Translate on iPhone, notice that the translation is identical?
I saw a Robert Scoble video interview with the CEO of myLanguage and some of the plans outlined by the CEO sound interesting: he mentioned the future possibility of having the translations done by humans (crowdsourcing); and that future versions may able to work with no Internet connection (which would be invaluable to rescue workers in disaster stricken areas). But for now, I would say that Vocre is a superfluous app that everyone can live without.
Steve Jobs is a genius. He started Apple Computers in a garage and turned it into the largest public company in America. He proved that nothing can stop a man with a vision and a dream. I remember when John Scully pushed out Steve and proceeded to run Apple into the ground. Only when Steve came back did the company rebound. Which leads me to believe that Apple is a one-man show. A giant company, but a one-man show nonetheless. That’s why I believe that Apple’s future without Steve is bleak. Steve’s shoes are too big to fill.
I started using a Mac in 1986. It was called a Fat Mac and I used to take it home on weekends for work. Reflecting on that, what work could I have been doing? There was no Internet back then, email was scarce. All I would do was write documents and work on spreadsheets. Still, the fact that I could take a computer home made me feel very powerful, like I had the world in my hands. I get the same feeling today when I whip out my iPhone which has a million times more computing strength than my Fat Mac ever did. I have no doubt that Steve would have kept cranking out bigger and better products but the man upstairs decided to throw a wrench in his plans.
Speech-to-speech translation has long captured the imagination of just about everyone. What was once science fiction is now reality thanks to IBM and other companies. I wrote a blog post about this last month entitled: For smartphone makers, speech-to-speech translation is key to success. I cited an interesting page on IBM’s website in that post which you can read here. This page introduces a real-time, mobile solution for speech-to-speech translation on cellphones which uses Statistical Machine Translation (SMT). Watch the IBM video to learn more about this system.
What I found most interesting about this system is that it requires no Internet connection. Using robust bilingual dictionaries, it can be used anywhere. So any mobile device or cellphone can be used as a personal interpretation device. Pretty neat! Right now, there are dictionaries for English-Arabic and English-Chinese.
I had the opportunity to correspond with the head of the IBM Research team that is developing this amazing technology, Dr. Bowen Zhou. Among his other tasks at IBM, Dr. Zhou is Principal Investigator in the DARPA TransTac speech-to-speech translation project. With roots in military applications, this technology is going to become commercial soon. The day is not far when we will be able to download this app to our iPhone, Android or other smartphone. Will IBM sell this app directly? Will it license the technology to a third-party (like Apple)? When will this product be released? IBM is keeping its cards close to the chest as you can see from Dr. Zhou’s comments:
Was the product already deployed? If so, who is using it?
Dr. Zhou: This is not officially an IBM product yet, but we did offer the software to some of our clients.
Is the app available commercially and if not, will it be available commercially in the near future? On what mobile phones will it be available?
Dr. Zhou: The app is not currently commercially available to the public. The app is available to some of our clients on Android. iOS devices are possible too. We don’t comment on future plans but will be glad to discuss more.
Now the product supports the language pairs English-Chinese and English-Arabic. Is it only these pairs or are there other languages? Will there be other language pairs supported in the near future?
Dr. Zhou: We also have some limited support of other language pairs (including the ones under development). Again, will be glad to discuss more if you have specific interest.