When sci-fi technology leaves the movie theater and enters real life, that’s a cause for celebration. Whether it’s Star Wars, Star Trek or any other beloved futuristic saga, I tip my hat to the creatives for imagining the possibilities of technology as well as the techies who try to make that vision possible. In that spirit I read Microsoft has announced plans for developing Skype Translator – software for real-time language translation of Skype voice calls. They anticipate releasing a beta version for Windows 8 at the end of the year as a paid option.
In a demo video, an English speaker and a German speaker communicate seamlessly. They talk in their native languages while each person’s speech is automatically translated and displayed on the other person’s screen. Wouldn’t that be great? It really would be!
Wait a second. 1-800-Translate provides businesses and individuals with telephone interpreting services powered by real people in over 150 languages. Shouldn’t I be worried about Skype Translator? Not in the least.
I love technology! Overall, I know it makes my life easier, safer and more fulfilling. However, I like technology when it works. As an example, let’s look at Google Translate. It’s a great toy, but it still isn’t accurate enough to use except in desperation. Would you trust the accuracy of Google Translate when your finances or health were depending on it, like in the case of an important contract, a patient record or even a love poem? I wouldn’t. Maybe one day the technology will get there, but that day is still a long time away. Human translators will still have jobs for the foreseeable future. And so it is with human interpreters.
That doesn’t mean I won’t still play around with Skype Translator when it comes out. I may even watch Star Trek while doing it. I just won’t stake my life and my most important conversations on it.