Google making HHGG’s Babel Fish

If you’ve never read  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, know three things – the guide is this really cool book that knows everything about the universe, everyone in that universe can communicate with each other, and you’re really missing out on a great story. What’s that have to do with anything?

Google today added even more languages to Google Translate for Android and it reminded us of how much closer we are getting to a reality where smartphones will break down language barriers in real-time as we wend our way through the world.

So, back to the book. In the book, the  Babel fish enters the plot early and solves that whole pesky intergalactic language thing that happens in sci-fi books. Of course, translation is a pesky problem in the real world too and it’s something Google has been furiously attacking for a while now. Today’s update is just another step on the road to our own, real-world plot device, err,  universal translator.

Today, the company that wants to index all the world’s knowledge added three more languages – Japanese, Arabic and Korean – to the list of 15 languages that it now offers text-to-speech support for on Android phones. This means, you can directly input text in your language, choose the language to translate it to, and then have the phone say it for you. Of course, you could use it to help learn too, but that’s not nearly as interesting as the ability to wander the world and let your phone do the talking. (Have you ever tried to ask “Where’s the subway?” in Mandarin? I’m willing to bet that anyone, including my Android phone, could pronounce Mandarin words better than I can.)

via Google Keeps Building the Tower of Babel, Floor by Floor.

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