Google has been developing prototype real-time speech translation systems that perform with "close to 100% accuracy" in laboratory conditions.
Google Translate, the web and mobile tool for converting text from one language to another, is already indispensable for most business travelers, expats and holidaymakers. Being able to type in a foreign text and get an immediate translation has saved countless people from accidentally ordering horse in a French restaurant or from using the wrong public toilets. However it's only as effective as the user's keyboard skills and when it comes to symbol- rather than character-based languages, unless the translation in question is for a website and copy and paste is possible, well, you're on your own.
In order to make the Google Translate web and mobile tool easier to iuse, Google has added a 'free-hand' feature, which lets users move a finger on the screen or a mouse on the desktop in an attempt to 'draw' the characters in question, instead of typing letters. The next step, according to Google, is to remove the keyboard altogether. The company is developing a real-time translation tool that can do for voice what its current systems can do for text. In an interview with The Times, Android product management vice president Hugo Barra said that the current prototypes are achieving "close to 100% accuracy," and that with some language pairings, the results are "near perfect," meaning that in laboratory conditions at least, two people speaking two completely different languages can communicate via the system.
Google has given no indication as to when a finished product will become a reality.