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Programming Apple

Speech-to-Speech Translator Developed For iPhone 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-got-a-word-for-that dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "Dr. Dobbs reports that Alex Waibel, professor of computer science and language technologies at Carnegie Mellon University, has developed an iPhone application that turns the iPhone into a translator that converts English speech into Spanish, or vice versa. Users simply speak a sentence or two at a time into the iPhone and the iPhone will respond with an audible translation. 'Jibbigo's software runs on the iPhone itself, so it doesn't need to be connected to the Web to access a distant server,' says Waibel. Waibel is a leader in speech-to-speech translation and multimodal speech interfaces, creating the first real-time, speech-to-speech translator for English, German and Japanese. 'Automated speech translation is an expensive proposition that has been supported primarily by large government grants,' says Waibel. 'But our sponsors are impatient to see this technology become more widely available and we, as researchers, are eager to find new revenues that will help us extend this technology to more of the 6,000 languages now spoken worldwide.'"
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Speech-to-Speech Translator Developed For iPhone

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  • Hey! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Cornwallis (1188489)

    Waibel is an leader in speech-to-speech translation and multimodal speech interfaces.

    Is Waibel also "an leader" in grammar detection?

    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      Waibel is an leader in speech-to-speech translation and multimodal speech interfaces.

      Is Waibel also "an leader" in grammar detection?

      Yes. Whenever you use their translator it will detect your grammar for you.

      In early versions they had a voice message that would play: "Waibel translator has detected grammar in your sentence!" after every time you said something. After a while they decided to remove it - I'm not sure why.

  • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:08AM (#29908607)

    My nipples explode with delight !

  • Qué?
  • Speak simply (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cerberusss (660701) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:16AM (#29908645) Homepage Journal

    Users simply speak a sentence or two at a time into the iPhone and the iPhone will respond with an audible translation.

    I think that should be corrected to "Users speak simply...". When using Google Translate to translate something from Dutch to French or German, I often deliberately make simple sentences that I know can be parsed easily and without having to detect double meanings.

    I mean, if Google Translate cannot do a good translation WITHOUT having to interpret sounds to words, then this tech will hardly be any better.

    Yeah yeah I should be more positive...

    • Re:Speak simply (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:21AM (#29908669)

      Also, have you seen Google Voice's attempted transcripts of voicemails? Things that I think are pretty clear come out in very, very odd ways.

      Not that Google is the best at everything, but they usually do quite a bit better than average. I find it hard to believe someone has managed to best them at both of these technologies and their first attempt to market it is an iPhone app.

      • Re:Speak simply (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mauddib~ (126018) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:50AM (#29908867) Homepage

        Not that Google is the best at everything, but they usually do quite a bit better than average. I find it hard to believe someone has managed to best them at both of these technologies and their first attempt to market it is an iPhone app.

        Not that I want to be called a nitpicker, but do you have any evidence? Does your average scale by market-value?

      • Microsoft's Speech to Text software built into every laptop nowadays does a better job of Google Voice's transcripts, but mostly because Microsoft's version has you read a short article, sentence by sentence, to determine any accents, slurs, or otherwise imperfections in your speech to properly align the computer to your voice.

        The problem lies in determining the actual message - just like throwing something a google or babblefish text-to-text translator, the message may come out a little backwards, or broke

      • http://isl.ira.uka.de/about_us/interact_director/ [ira.uka.de]

        Sounds like this guy is "quite a bit better than average" when it comes to speech technologies too. I don't see what's so hard to believe, it's a lot more handy having something like this on your phone than it would be on a desktop or even a laptop.

      • Speech recognition and natural language processing are very specialized fields. Just having a bunch of very smart software engineers (as Google does) will only get you so far without the specialized domain knowledge and domain-specific experience. Presumably Google has a few speech and natural language experts, but it's only these few that any more specialized competitor needs to best - not the whole of Google.

        AFAIK Google's current translation approach is mostly a dumb brute force approach of replacing the

    • Re:Speak simply (Score:4, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:30AM (#29908723) Homepage Journal

      I mean, if Google Translate cannot do a good translation WITHOUT having to interpret sounds to words, then this tech will hardly be any better.

      The device receives verbal cues that are missing from translating text to another language. In fact, there is far more information available, and perhaps it is possible to get clues about which version of a word is desired (or which of several similar-sounding words) from tone shift.

      • Re:Speak simply (Score:5, Informative)

        by k.a.f. (168896) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:02AM (#29908967)

        I mean, if Google Translate cannot do a good translation WITHOUT having to interpret sounds to words, then this tech will hardly be any better.

        The device receives verbal cues that are missing from translating text to another language. In fact, there is far more information available, and perhaps it is possible to get clues about which version of a word is desired (or which of several similar-sounding words) from tone shift.

        In theory, yes. (That's why our brains get more info from a spoken sentence than a written one.) In practice, not a chance in hell. Not until the state of the art advances by several breakthroughs.

        Disclaimer: I am a computational linguist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MobyDisk (75490)

      Google translate is a cheesy free tool that does not compare with professional translation tools. Last time I checked, the state of the art was to obtain documents written in multiple languages, and train a neural network (or something similar) based on those manual translations. It's orders of magnitude better than Google translate.

      • by thePig (964303)

        Which is the best translation software in your opinion?
        Are there any books which point to the state of art translation algorithms and how it is implemented?
        I have searched for translation theory a lot, but google mostly returns with human translation theory rather than the algorithms behind it.

        • Re:Speak simply (Score:4, Informative)

          by Olivier Galibert (774) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:06AM (#29908987)
          State-of-the-art is Moses [statmt.org] for decoding with Giza++ [fjoch.com] for word-alignment for training. The MT domain has an egyptian naming tradition for some reason (Moses is the open-source successor to Pharaoh). OG.
          • Re:Speak simply (Score:5, Interesting)

            by R.D.Olivaw (826349) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:20AM (#29909161)
            I just tried Moses' online demo for French-->English. 'J'aime pas le chocolat' is translated to 'I am not chocolate' and 'Je n'aime pas le chocolat' to 'I do not like the choclate'
            I guess state-of-the-art is still far from perfect too. The GP's point still stands.
            • The state-of-the-art is crap, but it's still the state-of-the-art. In any case, that's what is currently best, for a value of best meaning "gets the best score in most MT evaluations when used competently". Moses is a bunch of code implementing fun statistical algorithms though, not a full translation system. The quality of the system you get depends on the quality of the training you do, and pretty much how you setup the system together. The guy was asking for the algorithms though :-)

              OG

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by MrMr (219533)
              I tried "je n'aime pas du chocolat" and got "I do not like chocolate".
              It manages to map your incorrect French phrases into incorrect English with similar errors. I'm really impressed by the software...
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Mornedhel (961946)

                I tried "je n'aime pas du chocolat" and got "I do not like chocolate". It manages to map your incorrect French phrases into incorrect English with similar errors. I'm really impressed by the software...

                Just in case you were not being sarcastic, your own sentence is grammatically incorrect. The correct sentence is indeed "Je n'aime pas le chocolat".

                (I am a native French speaker.)

              • "I do not like chocolate" cannot be translated in any language, because it is intrinsically a nonsensical phrase. I mean, who doesn't like chocolate?!?

            • Whereas Google says: French (automatically detected) English.

              "I do not like chocolate."

          • by thePig (964303)

            Thank you very much.
            Would you be able to point me to any books for translation algorithms and mechanisms?
            I have been reading the clbook (for computational linguistics, rather than translation).
            Are there any books for translation algorithms?

          • Off the main topic, but I would guess they use an Egyptian naming scheme as a reference to the Rosetta Stone [wikipedia.org].
      • by cberger (1244306)
        That is exactly what Google is doing already since some time. Training its engine with manual translations (they started with something like ONU translations -same text available in multiple languages-). And now they provide tools (using their engine) to help translators (humans !), and then Google make use of these professional translators' translations to improve their own engine... http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2009/06/google-translator-toolkit.html [blogspot.com] This is the strength of google. Their huge userbas
      • by jipn4 (1367823)

        Google translate is a cheesy free tool that does not compare with professional translation tools.

        Google has some of the top people in statistical machine translation working for them.

        Last time I checked, the state of the art was to obtain documents written in multiple languages, and train a neural network (or something similar) based on those manual translations.

        And that's what Google does, only they have a lot more data than anybody else.

      • by Haeleth (414428)

        Right. And these tools can actually do a reasonable job in highly controlled circumstances. For things like patents, where the language tends to be very formulaic and is carefully constructed to avoid ambiguity, machine translation is feasible.

        Casual conversational language is another kettle of fish entirely. The "universal translator" is still science fiction, and looks likely to remain so for a long time.

    • Yeah yeah I should be more positive...

      I'm have trouble understand. Your battery need charge? I have jumper in chest of car.

    • Re:Speak simply (Score:4, Insightful)

      by beanspud (187388) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:57AM (#29908913)

      I do a lot of language translation, and it's pretty obvious to me that it requires understanding. Good automated translation is holodeck territory.

      • Of course, for a lot of uses, good is not actually required. You can miss a lot of nuance and even quite a lot of context and still be doing a lot better than if you had no lingua franca. You wouldn't want to use this kind of thing for business meetings or diplomatic negotiations, but asking for assistance or directions in a foreign country could be well within its capabilities.
    • by beelsebob (529313)

      Yes and no, while most speech engines are shit, there's actually a lot more information in voice than in text... You can use intonation to figure out which of the double meanings was meant.

    • by cornjones (33009)

      I think that should be corrected to "Users speak simply...". When using Google Translate to translate something from Dutch to French or German, I often deliberately make simple sentences that I know can be parsed easily and without having to detect double meanings.

      You mean sort of like when you are talking to somebody in another language that you haven't mastered? You will often need to use simpler sentences and enunciate clearly when speaking across cultural lines. this just allows you to speak those words in your own tongue. Pretty impressive, imho.

    • Yep... using simple sentences is a must. Simple in every way : short, simple sentence structure, unambiguous vocabulary, etc, etc. However, even when doing this it can be a crap shoot whether the output is any good.

      I use Google translate quite a lot for eBay transactions, and I've found the only way to get decent output is by iterative trial. Start with something simple as you suggest, but then translate it first to the target language and back into English to see how good it is (of course it may be the tra

    • I think that it depends on the languages. Google translate does fairly well between English and Danish because they have similar word orders. The software can just translate each word individually and in order, and the result will be somewhat coherent.

      Although written Danish can sort of be understood by Anglophones, spoken Danish is totally brutal. This app could make be really useful in that way.
  • If it does, better keep it on the queue-tee and not tell Apple! Seriously, I hope the author releases this for an open (or at least less closed--about the best we have in the phone arena at the moment) platform at some point as well
    • by base3 (539820)
      Criticism of Apple's heavy-handed App Store practices = troll. Nice to see the fanbois get mod points too, but I do have more karma than Shiva. Bring it.
  • On Other Phones (Score:5, Informative)

    by Deviate_X (578495) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:23AM (#29908681)
    This has been around for few years now on other phones symbion, windows, android by http://www.speereo.com/ [speereo.com] Enjoy ;)
    • by nneonneo (911150)

      I don't see a general speech-to-speech translator here. The closest I can get is the "Speereo Voice Translator" which is simply an audio phrasebook, not a speech-to-speech translator like Jibbigo claims to be.

    • by FelxH (1416581)
      I agree with the previous post. Where is the generic translator where you speak(!) an arbitrary word/sentence in one language and it comes out in another? From what I can tell speereo only lets you select from predefined phrases and plays you a little audio clip of them.
  • If it eventually covers all 6'000 spoken languages, then I will be able to understand the Swedish chef! If harsh language is prohibited, then Klingon will probably be hard to translate.
  • Star Trek-inspired technology is always cool.
  • Vamos! (Score:5, Funny)

    by neoform (551705) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:29AM (#29908713) Homepage
    Vamos a arruinar una bonita playa.
  • by Coraon (1080675) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:29AM (#29908715)
    Professor Hubert Farnsworth: [Professor Farnsworth is showing Cubert, his clone, some of his inventions] And this is my Universal Translator. Unfortunately, so far it only translates into an incomprehensible dead language. Cubert J. Farnsworth: [into the translator's microphone] Hello. Universal Translator: Bonjour! Professor Hubert Farnsworth: Crazy gibberish!
  • by EnigmaticSource (649695) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:36AM (#29908757) Homepage

    Parece que he perdido mi copia de la guía, pero como yo soy un príncipe de Nigeria, con mucho gusto a comprar uno por $ 10 millones de dólares EE.UU., si usted me ayudará a transferir fondos de mi hermano, que ha robado mi difunto padre trono. Por favor, responda con su información bancaria para que podamos ayudarnos mutuamente.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by selven (1556643)

      It is concerned, because I destroyed my copy of the directive, to the transference but, because they are natural of the prince of Niger, happy, to buy for $ 10 million dollars the United States if you help me, of the Kapitaln, which eliminates of my brother, of that with túnica the recent mine father' Therefore we of S. Répondez with their information of the battery can help to request the throne?

    • Un príncipe! Voy a salvarle a vuestra merced! Mi madre se llama Stephanie Michelle Johnson. Nació en Boise, Idaho en 1943. Mi color favorito es verde. Mi fruta favorito es la manzana. Mi cuenta es 867530942421492 de Wachovia, my número de Seguridad Social (SSN) es 447-88-4531 y yo nací en 1963 en Houston, Tejas.
  • ... will drive evolution of all languages toward vocabulary and syntax that's less prone to embarrassing or dangerous misinterpretation?

    I used to wonder if voice recognition would drive a big shift in pronunciation patterns, but now I expect that automatic voice recognition will outstrip human voice recognition before that can happen. Maybe the same thing will happen with translation, too.

    • by cmburns69 (169686)

      I wonder if widespread automatic translation will drive evolution of all languages toward vocabulary and syntax that's less prone to embarrassing or dangerous misinterpretation?

      That seems unlikely. There are just too many good backhanded compliments that can be given to make all double-meanings disappear.

  • No HD projector, no shaver. Lame

    this is where it's at. [pomegranatephone.com]

  • Is this build around the idea that if you speak slowly enough, the other person will understand you? Is it just converting speach read in, into a Captain Kirk mode?

  • mcipod (Score:2, Insightful)

    by uncanny (954868)
    This is great news, i can finally order a cheeseburger at mcdonalds again without trying to think back to junior high spanish 1 class!
  • Hilarious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yamamushi (903955) <yamamushi@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @11:40AM (#29911187) Homepage
    I bought the app and said "Marijuana" in English, which promptly spit back out at me in Spanish, "illegales" . I'm pretty sure that translates back into English as , "Illegal".
  • If you have two iPhones, see ...

  • Speech-to-speech translators have been around for a while; the problem with them is that they don't work well. Imagine the an unholy union between Google Translate and "Dear Aunt, let's set so double the killer". Or the Hungarian phrase book; it amounts to the same thing.

    Making an iPhone version serves two purposes, though: (1) lots of press coverage and (2) lots of user feedback and testing.

    Good job on the PR... :-)

  • There is no way to make an automatic translator that will work decently with Japanese. Maybe the simplest short phrases will work out okay but anything with any complexity is going to produce nonsense most of the time. This is especially so when translating speech from J to E due to the large amount of homophones and the required contextual understanding to figure out what word is being used. This is just marketing vaporware.

  • I thought the waibelfish goes INSIDE the ears?
  • This is impossible, unless there is some sort of delay, .. you can't just translate word for word, .. we in dutch do not use the same grammar as English people and neither the same as Spanish or French for that matter .. So either you get a crappy solution for a translation, .. where the other end is thinking wtf is this guy saying.. neither do we use the same expressions, .. Unless they can make your iphone mind read I don't care what they claim it's impossible to make a good translation.
    • I don't care what they claim it's impossible to make a good translation.

      A translation to good always possible being or not you are to believe in the mighty power of the Googol? Machine translations FWT!

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