Mobile and more recently wearable devices are becoming much more purvalent, and powerful. They are changing the way we live and the way we communicate.
It wasn't too long ago when it was common for people to purchase travel dictionaries on paper, and after that, not too long ago it was common that people used specialized travel computers dedicated to translating individual words from one language to another.
In the recent years, a number of advances in translation technologies have made those two approaches seem archaic and dated.
We're really excited about the amazing progress that has been made with the google translate app.
You can speak in one language, and the app can both translate in real time into another language, and speak out loud for you in that language. Its not quite the "Universal Translator" popularized in star trek since the text is read out in an artificial sounding computer voice ... but its getting pretty close.
Some of the recent developments in google translate include so-called "Augmented Reality" features (outlined in the video to the right), where you can look through your phone at a street sign or page with writing on it, and the translated text will be overlaid ontop of the image.
While it might be nice to have a travel dictionary 'just in case', you should be aware of the google translate app and what it can do! It is evolving at an incredible rate. You should try it out if you're planning a trip to a new country - or if you want to finally be able to read what's really on that vietnamese restaurant menu!
There are a number of competitors in the space of free translators, driving the race to innovate in this space - but Google Translate appears to be the most robust with the most powerful range of features at this point.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has been working hard to build realtime translation and has built a core translation service which integrates / ties together other Microsoft products. One such integration that Microsoft recently released is a real-time translation engine for the voice / text chat program "Skype" which they purchased several years ago. We found the link to their Preview Release . It looks pretty incredible, though we haven't had a chance to really dive deep into testing it out. It has enormous potential.
We found a couple of interesting products built by some smaller companies, including the open source translation engine apertium . There are many more worth mentioning, but none that come at all close to the efforts of the giants (Google / Microsoft) .... yet.
The future of tools to help facilitate polylingual communications is growing. We are not too far off from the "Universal Translator" , only dreamed of in Science Fiction. As computers get smaller and more integrated into our everyday lives with cellphones, watches, glasses, and in the fairly near future: contact lenses ... many of the communication barriers of the past are disappearing.