Speech synthesis and voice recognition have been around for a long time. It is not new in terms of technology. But now a San Francisco based startup wants to take it to the next level. What is the next level you ask? In a nutshell, they want to be able to take your voice and translate it into other languages. When I first saw this, I kind of dismissed it as I didn’t really see the value, but after watching the video below, I quickly changed my mind. No, I’m not overly impressionable. But the co-founder of the company does make some interesting, if not valid points. When it comes down to it, I’m not sure that this would benefit me personally, but the value is definitely there.
The key to this type of speech synthesis is that it uses your own voice as part of the translation. There is no computer generated output. In theory, the input and the output will sound the same. How can this be of benefit, you ask? One of the examples given in the video above shows a newscaster reading the weather on TV. In English. But with this technology, that information can be easily translated into another language. Therefore giving someone the ability to get the same information. In many cases language is a barrier. And this type of technology is a way to level the playing field in my opinion.
But, getting information on the weather might not be that pressing. What about when the Government provides services? What if you need to talk to your doctor and you don’t speak the same language? In particular I can see this being of benefit from a service perspective for newcomers. The technology is limited in the number of languages it can currently translate into. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good start. I’m not going to comment on the state of immigration in the United States right now, because it will make me rant. In Canada, however, there is a need for translation services particularly when it comes to core services. There are services within a community to help newcomers find services they need, and overcome the language barrier. But imagine how much further they could go with this type of technology?
Instead of having to bring someone to translate for you at the doctor’s office, you could use this. What’s also interesting about this technology is how someone communicates. I myself struggle with communication from time to time. Or miscommunication as it may be. Especially when it comes to the written word. Meaning, I send a text message and it’s not conveyed appropriately to the receiver. Maybe I’m putting emphasis on a particular word.. but they’re reading it in a different way. This technology takes other factors into consideration. For example, it considers the movement of your throat and chest.
I often rant about how I love to see when technology makes people’s lives better. And this is no different. The way I see it working is that it would fill a gap that currently exists when it comes to translation services. Unfortunately, the company isn’t there yet. So this might be a pipe dream. They are starting off in a different direction, with language translation being the ultimate goal. Which means, I’m getting ahead of myself. That being said, I still think it’s an amazing idea. I don’t always have a lot of patience, but I think that this will be worth the wait. And I hope to see it in practice one day. Hopefully sooner than later though.