Super short post this week, but it’s a bit of very exciting news for any DD+ shoppers who want to buy bras and clothes from foreign countries that don’t share the same language.
Quick intro for those not familiar with the program Skype: It’s a service that lets you make calls (with or without video) over the internet. You can call other Skype members anywhere in the world for free, or call phone lines for a very small price (like a few cents per minute depending on the country).
At this week’s Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, Skype announced and then demo’ed “real-time speech translation.” As you hold a conversation with another person, Skype will translate it into both spoken words and readable captions. As long as the person you’re calling has Skype, you can speak to anyone in any language, and it will translate your voice into their language and your voice into their language.
Here’s an article with more details: http://recode.net/2014/05/27/microsofts-skype-star-trek-language-translator-takes-on-tower-of-babel/
Do you realize what this means?? The struggle of using wonky Google translations and waiting days or weeks for an email response when ordering overseas could be a thing of the past! Imagine being able to call Comexim or Ewa Michalak (or any random foreign company) and get fit advice on the spot.
Supposedly this feature will be available in beta form later this year! It’ll start with just Windows computers, but the plan is to expand to Macs and all mobile devices.
Here’s a video from the conference. The demo starts at the 3-minute mark, and it works remarkably well:
It’s great news, but most likely the quality of this translation next several years is going to be worse than Google Translate (if you paid attention to that, both speakers used very basic vocabulary and were speaking like they were talking to a person with bad hearing). So e-mails are going to be more reliable.
It’s interesting, certainly, but if you expect it to be superior to Google translate, you’re bound to be disappointed. Two technologies are involved, speech-to-text and natural language processing. Natural language processing is improving all the time, but since you’ve used Google translate you’re no doubt aware of instances where it just doesn’t grasp the context.
Since voice translation will rely on the same technology with an added layer, there is simply more room for error. Anyone who has ever used an automated transcription service has experience with going through the transcriptions to correct the many mistakes. The technology simply isn’t that good yet.
That is not to say that it isn’t interesting that development is being done in this area. I just don’t expect it to provide any distinct advantage for the specific problems we’re dealing with.
In this case, the best solution would be a low-tech one: the Polish government should create a small bureau tasked with promoting small Polish businesses abroad by providing translation services and advice on VAT, shipping, conversion rates and accepting international orders. I’m thinking of a sort of chamber of commerce that provides information to Polish business owners, but also provides a certain volume of customer services (mostly translations) direct to the customers. It would also allow international customers to file complaints if there are problems with a company.
Right now a number of Polish women are very helpful at providing translations (check out the Polish phrasebook on /r/abrathatfits on Reddit) but it would be great if this could be done without relying on the kindness of a few people!