Star Trek-like universal translator a step closer

Firms merge to build mobile voice, text translation app

The first iterations of something akin to the universal translators used on Star Trek may soon be arriving via your smartphone.

A merger of two companies on Tuesday, Dial Directions in San Francisco and Sakhr Software Co. in Vienna, Va., brings together technologies that can turn an iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device into a voice and text translator.

Dial Directions has developed voice activation and recognition software that is used to provide driving directions via cell phones. Sakhr makes Arabic speech and language technology for U.S. government agencies, among other customers. The companies have been working on a joint project before the merger, but are now discussing how it works.

The new application is a mobile voice and text translation application that enables a user to speak English or Arabic into a phone. That speech is then translated into speech and text via a cloud-based service that comprised the application. It's not a real time universal translator, but it's very close.

"You can say anything you want and it will translate it very, very well," said Dial Directions CEO Adeeb Shanaa, who is now chief executive of the combined companies. "I would put it close to very close to actually having a perfectly fluent translator with you in your pocket."

Voice training by the user isn't needed, but the voice recognition will improve after a few times of use, said Shanaa.

Dan Miller, an analyst at Opus Research, which studies mobile Web and speech processing, says the merged technology's capability is "something of leap."

While he hasn't tried this specific device, Miller said translation capability, as general rule, is still short of perfect. If able to achieve between 70 and 80 percent accuracy transcribing a single language into to text, "you are doing very well."

The U.S. government is seeking 95 per cent accuracy in the translation of Arabic and Chinese speech and text under a research program it calls Global Autonomous Language Exploitation (GALE), which is being run by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Sakhr is involved in the GALE project.

All the Dial Directions employees have joined Sakhr, which now has a combined workforce of 200. Shanaa said the basic technology can be applied to other languages.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags translationstar trek

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2018

Roam freely in the digital world. Critically acclaimed performance and security at your fingertips.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?