When it came to translations, you used to either need an interpreter or a book to navigate another language. That was either costly or cumbersome, respectively. Then the Internet came along and made things significantly easier. Except you had to be chained to your computer to translate something. A year ago, Google made things easier again by launching their Translate app for Android. But that’s nothing compared to what they’re releasing today.
The latest version of Google Translate for Android comes with a few updates to celebrate the one-year anniversary. Most of these are to the user interface. But there’s also one new feature they’re previewing in alpha mode. And it’s awesome: Conversation Mode.
Essentially, this allows you to speak in one language into your phone and the app will read it out loud translated into the language of the person you’re speaking with. That person can then respond and it will translate it back into your language. Yes, amazing.
Google actually demoed this on stage at a conference in Berlin back in September of last year. There, after a few minor hiccups, an English to German conversation was had pretty quickly. At the time, they noted that hopefully it would be available to consumers in a few months. And now here it is — with some limitations.
First of all, Google is quick to note that this is very much an alpha feature. In other words, expect a lot of hiccups. They note that background noise, thick accents, and quick speech can all trip up the app. Further, it only works for English and Spanish currently. But I don’t care — this is still amazing. And you know they’ll improve it rapidly.
Google also notes that the overall app is now seeing daily usage from more than 150 countries around the world. Currently, it supports 53 languages for text input and 15 for voice input (though that’s different from this conversation mode). They also say that the majority of usage comes outside the U.S. right now, which probably shouldn’t be too surprising given what it does.
Again, this feature is Android-only for now in alpha. And it should be available shortly in the latest Google Translate app update.