Singularity Hub (Link) - Drew Halley (December 29, 2010)
The universal translator is a sci-fi staple: Star Trek made it infamous. Star Wars had C3PO. Hitchhiker’s Guide had the babel fish. Stargate and Dr. Who both had some variation of a voice-to-voice translating device. In some ways, the future is already here: Google Translate can turn around a workable text translation almost instantly (automatically in Chrome), and it’s letting the multilingual web talk to itself. Word Lens will even translate text you see in real time as augmented reality on your smartphone. Text translation is all well and good, but when will the holy grail arrive? When will voice-to-voice translation become a reality? When can you finally toss your Rosetta Stone software?
Actually, it’s already here – it’s just not as smooth as you might have hoped (yet). All the basic pieces of software necessary to a universal translator have already arrived: speech recognition (voice-to-text), language translation (text-to-text), and speech synthesis (text-to-voice). In fact, it’s already being employed in a number of sectors using current technology. Granted, the process is pretty clunky, but it’s here and it works.