My hovercraft is full of eels
Microsoft has demonstrated real-time translation of conversations conducted over Skype. Redmond showed off the tool at a shindig called Code Conference in California, and released the video below to show it off. The video uses Redmond's usual oh-so-shiny optimistic style. If you want to see the translation in action, fast …
I have a Hungarian friend on Facebook who sometimes posts in her native language, which Bing then offers to translate for me. The "translations" vary from completely incomprehensible English to almost pure Hungarian (only the word "fuck" was in English). I've never seen one which was in any way worthwhile, except as a joke.
Machine translation of text is a long way from perfect - it sometimes produces gobbledygook. But at least you can read the result carefully, and try to work out what it means. And it's working from text - aside from misspellings it knows exactly what the original is.
Voice translation can mishear the original, and then has the same problems as text translation. But if it's translating a real time conversation, there's no time to go back and carefully examine what it said. So a slight bobble in phrasing might mean a big difference in interpretation.
I though this demo of what I guess is the same system, from 2012 was very impressive. The presenter also goes into a bit of detail about how the speech recognition bit is done.
I have no clue with Mandarin, but the audience seemed to be happy with the quality of translation.
If it's anything like Bing Translate, they can keep it.
My Italian friends are frequently in hysterics at the translations it gives of quite simple Italian phrases - not just bad grammar, but totally inverting the meaning of the sentence or failing altogether to translate words that a quick Google pops up the English for in seconds. Unfortunately, the Facebook default is Bing (wonder how much that cost them).
We only use Google Translate: not perfect, obviously struggles on local dialect words and things like that, but at least you can get the gist of a post. Wouldn't want to think what the average speech recognition accuracy would add to the error margins on Bing... you have to remember that a 90% recognition rate on a translation tool that's 90% right is actually giving an overall accuracy of 81%. And, to be honest, I've never got any voice recognition tool to work well enough to justify it... Siri just completely blanked me just now, then didn't understand me, then finally realised I asked for a web search, then from "furry dice" managed to get "-". And then went off to Google "-".
Sorry, voice just isn't there. It wasn't there 20 years ago, it's not there now.
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I wonder if there would be one where you talk to it normally and it comes out like a market stall owner speaking in CRS. I also wonder what it'll make of a Birrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmingham or Liverpool accent. Almost every voice software I've used for the past 10 years has required me to train myself how to speak so the computer understands rather than the other way around and I don't have that strong an accent.