Just four short months ago, I wrote an article about Star Trek Technologies and how close we are to achieving each one. I think I can speak for most trekkies when I say that the day things like tricorders, replicators, cloaking devices and universal translators all be come realities is going to be very exciting.
As it turns out, Microsoft has just developed what many people are calling the first generation universal translator. Before now, the closest thing we really had to that was a Phraselator, which is a device used by the military. It is simply a one-way translator that plays pre-recorded messages (I know, lame). And of course, there are iPhone apps like Word Lens, which translates text into English in real time, and Google Translate, but those don’t really count in my opinion.
Just last week, Microsoft unveiled their Translator Hub which is a system that translates speech from one language to another, but get this, it spits it back out in a voice that sounds similar to your own (tone of voice, speed, etc.). It will be free to use, and it comes with 26 pre-installed languages. You can click over to Technology Review to listen to a few audio clips of this technology in action. According to Star Trek, the universal translator was invented right before the year 2151, so I suppose we are ahead of schedule. I can’t help but think that James T. Kirk would be proud. Now if we could just get a handle on a modern day replicator, that would be great since I’d like to replicate myself another caramel macchiato right now.