Speaking the Same Language

  • BY Justin Alvarez

On the show Stark Trek, there was never a concern amongst the ship’s crew whether or not they would understand an alien language. Why? Because they possessed a universal translation device that automatically transformed the foreign words real time into the person’s native language.
How easy traveling around the world, or even communicating within your own community, would be if such a device existed. But that’s something for the science fiction books, right? Not anymore.

In response to a post by Google on Google+ asking followers what functions they would like to see on a more complete version of its augmented reality product, Project Glass, British tinkerer Will Powell built his own set of glasses that includes real-time language translation.
In a series of YouTube videos, Powell has showed some impressive functionality, including voice recognitions, an on-device camera, and an MP3 player. However, the real-time language translation feature may be his most impressive feat yet.
In the video, Powell demonstrates how two people are able to communicate with the aid of the translation application on Powell’s glasses, thanks to the use of Microsoft’s translator service. While Powell speaks English, his partners speaks Spanish, and as the partner talks the English translation appears real-time on the glasses display.
Powell has detailed on his blog how the device works. As he explains, “The Bluetooth microphone streams across the network of what I say and what it picks up around me. This is then recognized and passed through Microsoft’s translation API…”
Google’s Project Glass will be shipping developer models by early next year, but Sergey Brin and Google should keep a close eye on Powell and what other independent developers are coming up with. Some of these technologies could transform the future of optical and augmented reality technology, with or without Google.