Add another Star Trek technology to the list of things that now exist in real life: the Universal Translator. Well, Vocre isn’t “universal” per se — I’m sure it wouldn’t be able to do Vulcan — but it will make conversing with people who speak different Earth-bound languages a lot easier.
Vocre is an app for the iPhone that utilizes three different technologies on the backend to transcribe speech to text, translate the text from one language to another, then speak the text to your conversation partner. Despite the complex background handoffs, the frontend process is quick and seamless. The language engine and word lists reside on a server, giving Vocre a leg up on exiting translators, as it recognizes millions of words instead of thousands.
The speech to text engine is powered by Nuance. The app streams audio live to their servers, which sends back text once the app determines you’ve finished speaking. Users then have the opportunity to correct any mistakes before then activating the translation engine. My Language, the company behind Vocre, developed their “hybrid translation technology” which uses crowd-sourced language data. iSpeech then handles the text to voice. My Language co-founder and CEO Andrew Lauder lauded iSpeech as “the best quality human-like text to speech voices that we’ve ever heard.”
I also really like how the user interface works. There’s very little tapping involved — instead, the app utilizes the iPhone’s accelerometer to determine when to move on to the next step in the process. It’s not easy to explain (though it is easy to understand), so it’s best if I just point you to the TechCrunch Disrupt demo video. Skip to about 1:55 for the good stuff.
The only major drawback to this app (besides the lack of it on my Android phone) is that, just like Google voice to text, it requires a connection to the Internet to work. My Language claims that it uses a tiny amount of data, but even small bits of data can get expensive when you’re roaming in a different country. While it will work over Wi-Fi, hotspots aren’t ubiquitous everywhere.
Otherwise, I’m impressed. Currently Vocre is available in the App Store for free. With the initial download you get 10 free translations. After that, you’ll have to pay $0.99 for 10 more, and so on. The interface itself is in English and it will translate 9 languages and dialects: English (US, GB, AU), Spanish (Spain), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy), Japanese (Japan) and Chinese (Mandarin/China). Support for more languages is coming later this year, according to TechCrunch.