SF Technotes

Translator Earpiece Runs IBM’s Watson

By Michael Castelluccio
June 21, 2017
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The Translate One2One Earpiece was announced in June 2017 at the United Nations Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Good Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. Lingmo International, an Australian start-up, says its device will be able to translate speech within seconds in eight different languages—English, Japanese, French, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and German.

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Lingmo’s founder, Danny May, explains, “As the first device on the market for language translation using AI that does not rely on connectivity to operate, it offers significant potential for its unique application across airlines, foreign government relations, and even for not-for-profits working in remote areas.”

 

Neil Sahota, an IBM Master Inventor from the Watson Group, offered a strong tie-in to the AI for Good theme at the conference. In his keynote Sahota offered, “Lingmo’s latest breakthrough demonstrates the transformative potential that cognitive computing platforms like Watson can offer in solving some of the world’s largest and most persistent challenges.”

 

HOW IT WORKS

 

Most translation engines available to users have two drawbacks: First, you need an online connection to get them to work. Second, because the application is reaching out for the computing power and algorithms elsewhere, it takes time for the translation to arrive back. Not at all suitable for comfortable face-to-face conversations.

 

May describes the One2One system as “translation in real time.” Each party in the conversation wears an earpiece, and the dialogue doesn’t have to travel beyond their vicinity. There’s no Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cloud connection needed, and the responses are measured in seconds. The goal Lingmo has set for itself is 85% accuracy for a start, providing real-time, voice-to-voice translation. The earpiece uses IBM Watson’s Natural Language Understanding and Language Translator APIs (application program interfaces).

 

Watson’s visibility is gradually emerging in fields as disparate as medical prognosis and financial services like TurboTax, as its powers of cognitive computing are being added to solutions in 20 different industries in more than 45 countries. You can sample some of what Watson is working on by visiting www.ibm.com/watson. There’s information on both the countries and the solutions.

 

WHY IT’S NEEDED

 

Barriers due to language differences can be costly. Professor James Foreman-Peck’s (Cardiff Business School) research was cited in an online Guardian story titled “Language skills deficit costs the UK £48bn a year.” That sum is about 3.5% of GDP. The deficient language skills were described as a “tax on growth,” penalizing small and medium-size exporters. The U.S. Committee on Economic Development (CED) estimates the same losses at more than $2 billion a year in the United States due to “language or cultural misunderstandings.” If it proves successful, the Lingmo One2One could have a considerable impact for tourists and business travelers.

 

Lingmo’s One2One is just out of beta, and the company is now taking orders for July delivery. It sells for $179. Further information on the device is available at www.lingmo.global.

 

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Michael Castelluccio has been the Technology Editor for Strategic Finance for 21 years. His SF TECHNOTES blog is in its 19th year. You can contact Mike at mcastelluccio@imanet.org.


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