Communicating with others can be difficult, especially if not everyone in the conversation speaks the same language. Computer-based translation is easing a lot of that pain, but in general it still means a lot of cutting and pasting has to happen, along with interpreting possibly imperfect translations. Slated, a new keyboard now available for iOS 8, aims to change that with real-time translations of input text that you can use and send with just a click.
The Slated app can translate between 81 languages, and will show you your evolving translation below the text entry bar as you type. The keyboard itself is basically a mirror of the stock iOS keyboard, minus the autocorrect and suggestion functions, so that should help lower the adjustment barrier for new users. The app also translates backwards so that you can understand the other side of the conversation: All you need to do is tap and hold any message in the conversation window, then hit “copy” to see the translation appear in the same window below the text entry bar where your own translations show up.
Slated’s creator Alaric Cole says that while the app is designed to be used to make it possible to have entire conversations with people whose language you don’t understand, and who don’t understand you, he also finds himself using it as just his standard keyboard – a big plus if you’ve spent any time using iOS 8 keyboards, which can become frustrating to switch between. Cole also told me that he’s using the app to learn his wife’s first language, as you inevitably end up picking up some of the languages you’re translating to with frequent use.
I used Slated for a while last night, chatting with my former colleague and current Engadget writer Chris Velazco in Tagalog. Chris’ Tagalog is a bit rusty, and he says he had to speak the sentences out loud to get my meaning, but in the end he also said that all of the translations managed to convey my meaning, even if syntax wasn’t always perfect.
The app is $2.99 at launch, though it will go back to its regular price of $4.99 eventually, but if you’re interested in communicating with someone in real-time in their own language, it’s a fairly small price to pay. Other apps, including Translator Keyboard, already offer this kind of functionality, but Slated seems to have really nailed the UI, and it works in many more languages at launch. The app is currently rolling out through the iTunes Store, so be patient if the direct link to the app isn’t working for you just yet.
We’re nearing the era of the true Babel fish, people, and it’s amazing to watch.