In the comedic science fiction novel, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” author Douglas Adams imagined a clever solution to the challenge of communications between different alien species: the Babel fish. When placed in the ear, the Babel fish allowed someone to instantly understand anything said in any language in the universe. Back here on Earth, human technology is rapidly catching up to the Babel fish with new earpiece devices designed to provide instant translation of foreign languages.
The latest entry into this emerging market segment is the Translate One2One, an earpiece that can translate languages in near real-time. Developed by Australian startup Lingmo International, the Translate One2One employs technology from IBM Watson to interpret languages.
The earpiece can translate between English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German and Chinese. One2One operates as a standalone device, performing translation on its own without requiring wired or wireless connectivity to cloud services on the internet.
Performance is fast, with written text and spoken conversations translated within 3 to 5 seconds, according to Lingmo. One2One is priced at $179.
Translate One2One employs IBM Watson’s Natural Language Processor and Language Translation application programming interfaces (APIs). These technologies are combined with Lingmo’s proprietary hardware and machine learning applications.
The arrival of the Lingmo One2One follows the announcement of Waverly Labs’ Pilot Earpiece Kit in late 2016. New York-based Waverly described the Pilot as the world’s first translation earpiece.
Similar to the One2One, the Pilot allows wearers to hear other people’s words in whatever language they understand.
Other companies are offering translators in alternative form factors to the earpiece. For example, the ili from Japan’s Logbar Inc. is a handheld translation device that provides high-speed interpretations.
In addition to the Translate One2One earpiece, Lingmo is offering other products that leverages its expertise in translation artificial intelligence.
The company offers the Translate4me app, which is available on iOS and Android. Translate4me works with 37 languages and produces translations almost instantaneously. The app also has the capability to handle contextual issues that can confound AI translation technologies.
The company’s Translation API is designed to allow developers to include translation capabilities in their products and applications. The API can deliver interpretations that sound like the words of a native speaker, rather than a literal translation of keywords, according to the company. Lingmo claims the Translation API supports an 85 percent accuracy rate.
With the arrival of the new generation of translation earpieces, the satirical concept of the Babel fish is becoming closer to reality.
Tyler Schulze is vice president, strategy & development at Veritone. He serves as general manager for developer partnerships, cognitive engine ecosystem, and media ingestion for the Veritone platform. Learn more about our platform and join the Veritone developer ecosystem today.