Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Star Trek's Universal Translator Much Closer

In answer to fans wondering why everyone in Star Trek universe spoke the same language. Gene Roddenberry  answered with the Universal Translator.  Though not often in evidence it did its job in realtime and with perfect accuracy.  

With the advent of increased computational power in the latter part of the 20th century, scientists began to work in earnest on a system that could do just that.  

Many software packages have at best been marginally successful with error rates of as high as one work in 5.  Plus most came no where near real time.  Word for word translators tended to be the slowest, pattern recognition fared only slightly better.  

Microsoft's chief research officer Rick Rashid  explained:
  • The system works by recognizing a person's words, and then converting the speech into organized sentences. This data is then picked up by speech synthesizing software trained to replicate the speaker's voice and their unique cadence.
Many other programs exist to date Apple's Siri or AT&T's English to Spanish translator.  But according to Rashid:
  • The big difference between these and Microsoft's breakthrough is the new software's ability to learn, process and pass along a human's voice and cadence.
Rashid was confident that the new software was a big improvement  so much so that he demonstrated it translating the system translating English to Chinese in China!  I  was enthusiastically  received by the audience.   

Check the Dvice article HERE


dennis said...

Great article but the final link leading to the original source is missing.

Beam Me Up said...

Dennis! Thanks so much for that find! I was half asleep when I finally posted that. It is reader like you that go the extra mile and report when something isn't working!

Pre C 8 it.


kallamis said...

I really don't see this happening within the next few years. Here is the reason why. Experience.
My daughters were raised by their mother who hid them from me. They found me. Anyway, they speak German, and lets just say I no longer have that ability. 25 years, i kind of forgot.
But every translator system we have tried, even when my English speaking daughter was here we tried a bunch, and none work at all. Not a single one could translate anything we put in accurately, and some were just horrendously wrong.
To get one that will actually work in real time, I believe is at least 10 years away. Just going by experience here folks, and I could be dead wrong on this.

Beam Me Up said...

I have tried Dragon and that is a farce, but I thought the Microsoft video very compelling. Very ballsey to do it in front of natural speakers. But I suspect that the system running it is not your everyday laptop. You need a system like IBM's Watson to effect the seamless performance that Star Trek enjoyed. So it is not performance that is a decade away but the hardware to run in real time and small enough to be secreted like Star Treks

kallamis said...

Glad you said that about Dragon. I was thinking of getting that for writing, so that I could do it while doing every other million things I have to do.
That just saved me some money in the future. Thank you for that. And yeah, I agree. The hardware itself would be the biggest problem. But even if they could put it al in something like say, (universe help me) a lightsaber style thing like seen there would even be a great start.
And some languages would be easy. However, this is America, and the freaking language seems to change about every year with new slang, etc that eventually get incorporated into the actual language.
I agree we will eventually get there, but I agree that it will be 10 years at least. Hopefully not, but probably.
Hell, even for just a vacation that thing would be invaluable, especially in case of medical emergency, accident, etc.