For years people have dreamed about creating the real-world Babel Fish, that lovely creature imagined by Douglas Adams as being able to automatically translate all languages in real time. The tech companies have been on it recently, particularly where earbuds are concerned, and now Amazon seems to want that feature built into Alexa.
Alexa can already translate words and phrases from several languages, including French and German, when asked, but a report from Yahoo Finance claims that Amazon wants to turn its assistant into a proper real-time translator that can handle any situation. Apparently it will also be able to take culture into account, with Yahoo using the example of a Japanese wedding to explain the nuances of the languages:
Alexa would have an understanding of the Japanese culture, which is generally more formal and conservative than American culture and would incorporate its knowledge into translations. For example, asking the virtual assistant, “Alexa, what do I say to the father of the bride at a wedding in Japan?” would solicit a different response and tone from Alexa than if you asked the assistant ”What do I say to the master of ceremonies at a wedding in Japan?” The understanding being that remarks you make to the father of the bride would be more formal and reverential than to the wedding’s master of ceremony.
Sources also told Yahoo that the ultimate goal is to have Alexa translate for you on the fly, differentiating between multiple languages being used during a single conversation and helping you understand exactly what people are saying.
It's a great idea, though the issue that comes with using a virtual assistant is having to use a voice command every time you want something translated - much like the translation in Google's Pixel Buds. But hopefully, someday soon, that'll evolve into having a single command that will automatically listen out for foreign languages and automatically translate them until you tell it to stop.
It makes sense that Amazon would launch this feature for Alexa, given everything else she can do, but it does have me wondering whether this means we'll be seeing some Alexa-powered earbuds or headphones from Amazon in the near future. After all, having translations fed directly into your ear is a lot less intrusive than pumping them out through the speakers of a phone or Echo. [Yahoo Finance via Pocket Lint]