New Tech Could Make Translation a Snap for Businesses

It's not perfect yet, but new Google offerings point to a future of hassle-free language translation.

Is technology about to make language ­barriers a thing of the past? At the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, Google announced that its Google Assistant technology can now translate 27 languages in near-real time. The technology could be revolutionary for organizations with customers and business partners around the world.

Here’s how it works: A person using the Google Home Hub, where the translation ­feature will first appear, can speak in their native tongue, and Google Assistant will repeat the speaker’s words in a designated language and display them on the hub screen. The person on the other side of the conversation can then speak, and their words will likewise be translated.

Does it work? Not perfectly, but well enough to carry on a basic conversation, according to a writer for The Verge, who tried it out by speaking Mandarin. It’s “a little unnatural in practice” to have to wait for Google Assistant to translate a speaker’s words before responding, and Google might miss some things, Shannon Liao reported.

Still, it’s another step forward in Google’s development of tech that smashes the language barrier, including its Pixel Buds, earbuds that include a more rudimentary translation feature. And it’s likely to inspire competitors in the smart home device market to develop their own translation features.

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Mar 18 2019

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