In this video clip, Leonard Nimoy (the legendary Mr. Spock from Star Trek) interviews Steve Wozniak about the future of machine translation. Steve discusses the use of machine translation apps for the iPhone. You speak into your device in your native language and, based on your selection, the machine translation app translates the words and broadcasts the translated equivalent on the speaker in your device. Jibbigo is a company that is doing just that, albeit in only 9 language pairs.

Revolutionary? Well, no, not really. We’ve been working on various technologies to do this for a long time. What’s interesting is that translation is becoming more and more and more important every day. Whether it is written content, spoken content, or visual graphics (think Word Lens from Quest Visual for example), people everywhere are looking for accurate and immediate machine translation.

In 2009, there was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “Darmok“. This episode features the universal translator, a device which instantly translates any language into any language. Even alien languages can be instantly translated with a universal translator. In fact, the first instance of any science fiction tale featuring a universal translator dates all the way back to 1945 in Murray Leinster’s novella, “First Contact.”

We’ve come a long way since simply dreaming of a universal translator. However, our work is far from over.

Envoyez-moi jusqu’à, Scotty?

Val Swisher
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