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Star Trek's universal translator comes one step closer to reality with Google Translate update

A forthcoming update to Google Translate will bring the sci-fi world of Star Trek one step closer to reality. (Source: Google)
A forthcoming update to Google Translate will bring the sci-fi world of Star Trek one step closer to reality. (Source: Google)
Google has been working hard to bring all sorts of AI-powered smarts to Android smartphones for some time. The latest application of this technology will bring Android closer to realizing the Star Trek vision of universal translator with a forthcoming update to Google Translate for Android.

If there is one area where Google has a clear lead on Apple’s iOS on Android it is in its application of AI-powered algorithms. The Verge was on hand at a demonstration at Google’s San Francisco office to see the Mountain View tech giant unveil technology behind a forthcoming update to its Google Translate app for Android. Much like the universal translator in Star Trek, the Google Translate app will soon be able to translate a voice spoken in one language into another.

The technology is very similar to the Live Transcribe feature that Google debuted in Android 10 and is also available to other Android devices as an app. However, where that version of the tech converted supported spoken languages into written versions of the same language in real-time, Google is now able to convert spoken language into a different language in written form – all of this is still undertaken in real-time.

In its initial phase, the app will depend on live audio being captured through the mic of an accompanying smartphone. This could either be spoken live or sourced from an audio recording played over a speaker. There is a possibility that Google might add the ability to translate audio files on device in the future. In the meantime it is yet another technology that many imagined growing up or seeing in fiction that is becoming a reality. Little did we know that AI algorithms would become so prominent in driving that innovation.

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Sanjiv Sathiah, 2020-01-29 (Update: 2020-01-29)
Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - News Editor
I have been tech-obsessed from the time my father introduced me to my first computer, an Apple ][. Since then, I have grown to enjoy exploring and experimenting with any computing platform that I can get my hands on – I am the definitive early adopter! I have always been interested in how we can use technology to shape and improve our lives, most recently using it to record, mix and master my debut record, Acuity – Nature | Nurture out now on Spotify.