It sounds like a sci-fi movie, but there are already devices out there that help you speak to anyone, anywhere in a matter of seconds. The days of pointing and gesturing like a clown to make yourself understood when travelling are now a thing of the past.
One of these ‘magical’ devices presented as the last edition of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is Travis, a pocket-sized instant translator that uses its AI system to learn as you speak and can translate to and from 80 languages.
A solution for travellers and entrepreneurs with no time to spare or a desire to learn a new language can now be purchased for $99, a more than affordable price that will make you multilingual instantly. It works with headphone, has Bluetooth and a battery life of 12 hours from a single charge, and the idea is that it goes to market next June.
It looks like a small tape recorder, and in almost real-time, it magically reproduces what you said in your mother tongue in the foreign language selected through a built-in speaker. The launch of the Travis comes with a ‘Butyone, give you’ marketing strategy, so for each unit sold the company gives another device to NGOs helping Syrian immigrants adapt to a new language.
Another of the options that everyone seems to be talking about nowadays is the iLi. It’s been hyped as the first wearable translator for travellers that works without an internet connection. The company claims processing time is almost zero and the response is as close to real-time as it gets. Just push the button, speak, release, and the device sends the translated message.
The first version was able to translate English, Japanese, and Chinese. French, Thai and Korean are coming in the second edition, and Spanish, Italian, and Arabic are expected in the third version. The company also states that the microphone recognises the user’s voice in situations where there’s a lot of noises and people talking.
But, apps are also making inroads when it comes to simultaneous translation. There’s a wide range of apps available that claim to do more or less the same, although with less versatility and computing power than the Travis or the iLi. WhatsApp, for example, recently rolled out an update with a ‘Tap to Translate’ feature, so now, there’s no more switching back and forth between Google Translate and WhatsApp.
This is a joint service together with Google, using the Gboard virtual keyboard (developed for Android and iOS) to translate simultaneously up to 92 languages. It basically translates as you type your message and works for a surprising number of languages including Basque, Galician, Catalan, Hmong, Igbo, and even Esperanto.