"Last month, Skype, Microsoft’s video calling service, initiated simultaneous translation between English and Spanish speakers. Not to be outdone, Google will soon announce updates to its translation app for phones. Google Translate now offers written translation of 90 languages and the ability to hear spoken translations of a few popular languages. In the update, the app will automatically recognize if someone is speaking a popular language and automatically turn it into written text."
"Within minutes, I was used to the process and talking freely with a Colombian man about his wife, children and life in Medellín (or 'Made A,' as Skype first heard it, but it later got it correctly). The single biggest thing that separates us — our language — had started to disappear."
"Those language mistakes are a critical part of how online products get better. The services improve with use, as so-called machine learning by computers examines outcomes and adjusts performance. It is how the online spell check feature became dependable, and how search, map directions and many other online services progress."
"Still, some experts worry as machines look more deeply at individual uses of meaning through things like intonation and humor. What will it mean if, as with our search terms and our Facebook 'likes,' these become fodder for advertisers and law enforcement?"
Language Translation Tech Starts to Deliver on Its Promise
It may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but translation tools are improving enough to imagine a day when a Spanish speaker and an English speaker can easily chat.