Google Translate on Android gets experimental Conversation Mode


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Google announced Wednesday that its experimental Conversation Mode is rolling out to users of its Google Translate app on Android phones and tablets.

Conversation mode is ‘still in its earliest stages,’ wrote Awaneesh Verma, a Google product manager in a statement. ‘This is a new interface within Google Translate that’s optimized to allow you to communicate fluidly with a nearby person in another language.’


The feature, first shown off translating from English to German and back again in September, will allow two people, who speak two different languages, to speak into a phone with the phone translating back to them so a conversation can be held.

The Google Translate update released Wednesday allows for Conversation Mode to only translate between Spanish and English, Verma wrote. Google does however plan to add more languages in the future as the feature moves out of its early public ‘alpha’ stage.

Conversation Mode works by users pressing an icon on a Android device’s touch screen for either Spanish or English and then speaking the sentence to be translated.

The app then translates speech out loud, playing through the device’s speakers. Whomever the user is speaking to can then respond in his or her language, which the app will then translate as well, allowing people to -- converse.

The feature isn’t always 100% correct, as with any current machine translation methods, but Google is working on improving the accuracy and the number of languages available to users.

Because this technology is still in an alpha stage, factors such as regional accents, background noise or rapid speech are a bit of a problem for Conversation Mode, Verma wrote. That too, one would imagine, would be polished as Google’s Conversation Mode technology progresses.


The app currently supports text input for 53 languages and voice-to-text translation for 15 languages.

Google Translate was first released about a year ago and the majority of the app’s usage comes from outside the U.S. with daily users in more than 150 countries, Verma wrote.


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