John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Here’s Hoping Google “Speech-to-Speech” Translation Not as Hilariously Inaccurate as Google Voice Translation

Google has built up quite a business scanning the written word for contextual advertising opportunities. Now it hopes to do the same for the spoken word as well. The company is reportedly developing a real-time translation technology for our phones.

“We think speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years’ time,” Franz Och, Google’s (GOOG) head of translation services, told the New York Times. “Clearly, for it to work smoothly, you need a combination of high-accuracy machine translation and high-accuracy voice recognition, and that’s what we’re working on.”

A worthy goal, and admirable too, since such a technology, were it to work well, would really herald an end to language barriers. That said, given the hilarious inaccuracy of Google Voice’s visual voicemail transcriptions, I’d say a truly usable speech-to-speech translation service is quite a bit further off than Och claims.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik