If technology is truly meant to bring us all closer together, then recent translation services are doing their part to make the world a smaller place.
Flashy items like NEC’s translation glasses and the new iPhone application that can convert text from pictures will get plenty of attention once they’re tested and widely distributed, but in 2009 a number of other innovations have already begun to affect how Japan’s residents interact with the world and each other.
Google has certainly been at the forefront. Their “Translate this page” links are now built into Japanese search results, and the dedicated Translate application has made huge strides in turning select phrases, web pages and PDF documents into your preferred tongue. Google Reader has opened the blogosphere even further with the option to change RSS feeds into English or other languages. Twitter, the year’s other web darling, continues to grow in popularity here, and the Tweetie iPhone application‘s translate function is helping more non-Japanese speakers to keep better track of the country’s 140-character community.
These services are far from perfect, however. Complex grammar and slang can still render Google’s translations nearly useless, and the casual nature of tweets and their abbreviated format can make the converted text unreadable. But it’s important to keep in mind that these services are all in the early stages, meaning that by this time next year the internet could be awash in global chit chat. One possible silver lining to today’s algorithmic inadequacies could be the reassurance that computers have not yet rendered humans redundant. Translation and interpretation by real people (especially in niche fields) is still a huge business.
Read the full piece at Japan Pulse.