Adapt or die: Online tech giants changing the landscape of the translation industry

Apr 28, 2017

What a time to be alive, sit back and be amazed at the unprecedented exponential progress technology is exposing all of us to – from layman to super-pro. The generation before us were hoping for TVs they could hang on walls and roll up and carry under the arms. Maybe that is not far off, but in translation and automation, the world is taking double-leaps and double-bounds. We love it, but those bounds are still not long enough...

The connection of digital and non-digital, the efforts of Google, Facebook and alike to rewrite the entire world into a binary code, or to extend the human brain with computer abilities already brings tangible results that will eventually change the full environment of doing business everywhere on earth. From downtown Manhattan to the plains up off Scarborough and to the rice fields in far away places like Indonesia. We will see a radical change to the demand and supply of products and services – translation included.

Augmented reality translation apps

Google announced this year that the Augmented Reality (AR) feature of the Google Translate app, Word Lens, has been expanded with yet another language and is now able to translate even Japanese to English and vice versa, making it the 30th supported language for instant translation. The machine translation quality is still leaps behind professional human translation, but given the pace of its learning curve in recent years, it is only a matter of near-time for solutions with impressive computing-power to deliver pretty satisfactory results not only for day-to-day private use, but for many more in business and other parts of life. With the right device, all written content will be translatable in real-time – and not just to get travel instructions in e.g. the Tokyo subway maze, but any kind of text including subtle manners on entering a tea house in the farthest corner of e.g. Shizuoka.

Brain typing in foreign languages

Thanks to brain computer interfaces, Stephen Hawking is able to share his genius with the rest of the world, despite being unable to speak a single word. Facebook has just announced their (now a bit more science-fiction-like) goal to enable brain typing thanks to a non-invasive brain computer interface based on optical brain scans, that would eventually recognize human speech without the need to talk. It would be actually possible to control the augmented (as well as virtual) reality apps directly from one's brain, no extra transmitter involved. And Facebook seems quite confident in their standing, as their ultimate goal now is to produce scalable and marketable solutions that would allow users to type around 100 words per minute just with their mind – which is about three times faster as hand typing on phones.
Food for thought: In the old days, expert typist actually reached such speeds on standard typewriters from Remington, Underwood and others – so are we impressed? Yes we are, if I could have thought up this blog and telepathed it to my blog spot, it would have been done in a couple of minutes...

With the help of MT, this effort might actually result in people writing down their thoughtalready translated into a different language one day, possibly within the next decade, and Yes, then we are very impressed and we understand why typewriters went out the window. Now those are keepsakes.

Auto Translation is almost as unthinkable now as the notion of wi-fi and smartphones usage was 15 years ago. However, today's emerging technology should inspire translation suppliers and providers to seek to improve and refine their business models and adapt while there is still time.

We are working hard on it.