Sunday, March 11, 2012


Dr. Kobayashi’s dream of a “translation telephone” gets really close with new iPhone app

‘If I am asked about my vision for communications in the future, and if I am allowed to talk beyond my ability, my imagination goes to such extent that social needs for communications might be “to talk and see between any persons, at any time, at any place on the earth, in the early days of the next century.” Assuming that this comes true, all technology, communications, computer and television will be, and should be, integrated for such needs at such time. And therefore, it is important to help developing countries to be able to participate in such a world telecommunications system.Dr. Koji Kobayashi, late chairman of NEC, at Intelcom 1977

by Larry Geller

In a previous life I was senior vice president and director of C&C International, Ltd.,  a joint venture company between NEC Corporation and General Electric, and met Dr. Kobayashi several times. He was quite sincere in believing that one day people in different countries might simply pick up the phone and converse with each other without the barrier of language.

Although NEC developed several machine-translation systems even while we lived in Japan, none achieved “industrial strength” status at that time. When Dr. Kobayashi passed away at 89 in 1996, his dream was yet unfulfilled.

The only way to directly converse with someone in a different language was to study and learn the language. Even today, with Google Translate and other options, nothing replaces learning to speak more than one language. Along with the language comes an understanding of the culture and business practices, especially if one lives in the other country while learning.

Still, technology moves on towards Dr. Kobayashi’s dream goal. Google is also good for keeping track of progress in this area by scanning the web for one’s favorite key words.

TranslateSo when an alert for this article popped up, I thought, “Dr. Kobayashi, take a look at this!”

The Engadget article describes Vocre 2.0, an app for the iPhone that comes very close to the  concept of the “translation telephone.” Check out the YouTube video below. For my taste, the translation should be more automatic. There’s too much button-pushing to do it, but on the other hand, this way the speaker has an opportunity to check the translation. Maybe there could be a mode one day that would enable a more natural conversation, with the understanding that there could be some errors. Heck, mistakes happen even if a person is bilingual.

Here’s the video. Click the thingy at the lower right for full-screen, which helps to read the little translation balloons on the smart phones.

From the press release on the Engadget website, a list of languages supported by the app:

Altogether, 23 languages are available, featuring Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese), Danish, Dutch, English (Australia, United Kingdom, United States), French (Canada, France), German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil, Portugal), Russian, Spanish (Mexico, Spain, United States), and Swedish.

That’s impressive!


""私は将来の通信のための私のビジョンについて聞くと、私は私の能力を超えて話をさせて頂く場合には、私の想像では、通信のための社会的ニーズがあるかもしれない程度になっています場合は、 "いつでも、あらゆる人との間で話を見て次の世紀の初期の頃の時間は、地球上の任意の場所で、 "これが本当来ることを仮定すると、すべての技術、通信、コンピュータとテレビとなり、そのような時にそのようなニーズに合わせて統合する必要があります。したがって、そのような世界の通信システムに参加できるように途上国を支援するために重要である。 "" - 博士。 Intelcom 1977年に小林宏治、NECの故会長、
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NEC私たちが日本に住んでいながらも、いくつかの機械翻訳システムを開発していますが、どれもその時点で "産業強さ"のステータスを達成しません。小林博士は1996年に89で亡くなった時、彼の夢はまだ満たされていた。
それでも、技術は、小林博士の夢の目標に向かって上に移動します。 Googleはまた、1つのお気に入りのキーワードのためのWebを走査することにより、この分野での進歩を追跡するのに適しています。
したがって、この記事のアラートがポップアップしたとき、私は博士は、 "考え小林さんは、これを見てみましょう! "
Engadgetの記事はVocre 2.0の概念に非常に近づいているiPhone用アプリ説明 "翻訳電話"を下記のYouTubeのビデオをチェックアウトします。私の好みのため、翻訳は、より自動でなければなりません。そこにそれを行うには、ボタンを押しすぎるのですが、一方では、この方法は、スピーカーが翻訳をチェックする機会を持っています。多分いくつかのエラーがあるかもしれないことを理解し、より自然な会話をできるようになる一日モードがあるかもしれません。人はバイリンガルであっても、一体、ミスが起こる。



Looks promising but I agree, it looks awkward to use with all the button pushing. It does appear there will be a lot of button pushing when that couple gets back together. :)

Hi Larry,

We are floored that you would compare us to Dr. Kobayashi's dream.

The video demo of Vocre 2.0 beta is a result of under 2 months of conceptualization and creation.
We have some tricks up our sleeve to counter the 'clunky' experience that is shown in the video, they weren't yet ready as part of the video.

We hope to change how the world communicates, hopefully just as Dr. Kobayashi would have wanted.

Thank you for your support!

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