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

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

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

Mobile

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?