Artificial intelligence is many things: logical, useful, scary, efficient, marginalising, shocking, exciting, wonderful. An area where I think AI will break wonder-ground before long is in communication. More particularly, in instant translation.

Poor communication, miscommunication and confusion have plenty to answer for down through time. When we can instantly cross the language barrier, advances through intelligibility, collaboration and productivity are self-evident. From travel encounters to customer support, research depth to idea generation, security to… dating, it is through connecting with and understanding each other fast that good stuff can really roll.

Google Translate arrived in 2006, and has grown to over 500 million users worldwide, translating more than 100 billion words daily. Voice speed is the name of the next game changer, and the next communication boundary-crossing frontier presents in the form of speaking, not in writing.

Talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere? It’s a head-turner and, despite the perennial promise of a Star Trek universal translator being right around the corner, some workable applications appear to be at least in sight:

  • An ear device from Waverly Labs that translates foreign languages in real time
  • A pocket widget called Travis that lets you speak 80 languages in your travels
  • A gadget  called ili that translates English, Japanese and Chinese instantly
  • Pure Neural Machine Translation by Systran for advanced multilingual communications

We’ll see how fast this moves, but it is clearly moving. Next stop, talking to aliens.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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