We’ve been dreaming of universal translators throughout the history of science fiction; Star Trek has only popularized the concept. As computing power and AI improves in real life, we’re seeing the possibility of an actual real-time translation system become more of a reality. Products like Samsung’s Bixby and Google’s Pixel Buds and Assistant are early examples of the technology. Now, according to a report at Yahoo Finance, Amazon is looking to turn its ubiquitous Alexa digital assistant into a real-time universal language translator.
Alexa already can translate words and short phrases from and into a variety of languages, but Yahoo’s sources say that Amazon is pushing for a true multilingual assistant that can perform more complex translations. Such a system would need to be aware of cultural as well as linguistic details, as well, as most language is dependent on contextual and situational cues. Yahoo’s sources also note that eventually, Alexa will be able to translate conversations with multiple people speaking different languages at once, perhaps as an outgrowth of it’s recognition systems for multiple users now. Obviously, this is all future-focused; you won’t be able to use Alexa to go to that wedding in Japan just yet.