Broadspeak Releases a Speech-to-Speech Travel App for Android Phones

Broadspeak, a mobile linguistics company based in Seattle, just released a speech-to-speech translator for the Android platform.

The user interface on this app is designed for real-time interactions, provided the interactions aren’t too complex. The user can select from translation engines by Google or Microsoft, which both provide more than 50 languages to choose from.

“The notion was simple,” states Paul Moyes, CEO of Broadspeak, in a statement. “We wanted to provide our customers with a tool that encourages direct communication with a foreign counterpart.”

To use the application, the user simply presses the “speak in” button. The app’s translator then plays the translation over the phone’s speaker. To have someone respond, press the “speak in button” again and allow the other person to respond. The app will then translate what is said.

While the application is more accurate when phrases are simple, Scott  Farrar, chief technology officer at Broadspeak, notes that longer expressions aren’t necessarily harder, but it depends how common the words and combinations are. “In general, shorter sentences or phrases are easier to translate. Why? There is more likely to be a one-to-one match for shorter expressions in the set of training data, similar to a dictionary,” he says.

“A typical phrase should be around one or two sentences in order to maintain accuracy,” Moyes adds. “However, if the speech is clearly stated, there is no reason why the translator will not recognize it, but it will take longer to process and translate the information. The translation accuracy depends on the translation engine chosen, the words requested to be translated, and also on the language pair selected. A good example would be Russian/English, which is around 90 percent accurate using the Google engine.”

Farrar says Broadspeak  also plans to bring translation to the phone itself so users won’t need an Internet connection to use the app. “To achieve this,” he asserts, “we'll be separating the language into what we call user domains." Some examples of these domains could include medical emergency, shopping at the local market, or making friends.

“There are a few other translation apps that offer similar services,” Farrar states, “However, we put a lot of thought into the UI itself, making Broadspeak's app easier and more intuitive to use. It's designed for fluid transactions with a foreign speaker. That is, it's much easier to pass the phone back and forth with the one you're communicating with.”

Right now, the app is advertiser-supported and free to use. An ad-free version is available for 99 cents. It only supports phones on Google's Android mobile platform now, but a version for Apple's iPhone is due for release early next year.

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