The Slow Race To A Translating Telephone

Google’s translating telephone, first discussed in February 2010, “will be coming soon” a tipster told us earlier today.

It turns out that isn’t correct. Google PR told me today that “it is a ways off” from being launched.

But Google has been talking about the product, which translates voice into another language and then speaks the translation to the listener, quite a bit lately.

CEO Eric Schmidt mentioned it during his talk at TechCrunch Disrupt late last month. And Product Management Director Hugo Barra (recently in the TCTV studio) actually demo’d the product in Berlin in early September. Watch that demo here.

But this isn’t a one horse race. Microsoft has their own version of the product, too. I saw Microsoft’s translating telephone live, and video’d the demo (also, oddly enough, between an English and German speaker).

Microsoft didn’t seem to be in any rush to productize their translation service, either. But I hope one of them does, and soon.

The market for this is huge, even if the services don’t work all that well at first. Being able to pick up the phone and talk to someone without a common language would help make the world a smaller place. Business relationships and friendships could be forged that would otherwise be ignored.

And the device would also be very useful for communicating with alien races, as shown on Star Trek. In that wonderful television series, however, the universal translator wasn’t invented until late in our 22nd century.

I don’t have that kind of time, guys.

First one to market gets one heck of a TechCrunch Review, and free AOL tshirts for the whole team. Even though the translations will be hilarious. Let’s do this! Then, while sitting in my self driving car with nothing much to do, I can call people in Finland and have interesting conversations about the history of Nokia.