Google Assistant breaks language barriers

Tech giant unveils ‘interpreter mode’ that can translate between two people in real time

Dumb charades in hotel lobbies between a concierge and tourists who don’t speak the local language may soon be a thing of the past. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 currently on in Las Vegas, Google has unveiled a new feature: the ‘interpreter mode’ in Google Assistant, its voice-based Artificial Intelligence (AI). This would enable Google’s virtual assistant to serve as a real-time language translator between two people. With this feature, which will be rolled out over the next few weeks on Google Home devices and Smart Displays, one can just tell the Google Assistant “Hey Google, be my Japanese interpreter”, and it would function as one. Currently, this feature supports 27 languages, including English, Hindi, Polish, Indonesian, Swedish, Thai, German and Korean.

Trial this week

For starters, the company is piloting the Interpreter Mode this week at the concierge desk in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, and Dream Downtown hotel in New York City. “By bringing the best of Google services and AI to the Assistant, we’re focused on building the most helpful digital assistant when you’re at home, in your car, or on the go,” said the company in its blog. Google, which has to contend with Amazon’s Alexa as it strives to position Google Assistant as the consumer’s preferred voice-based assistant, also unveiled Google Assistant Connect, a platform that will enable third party device manufacturers to bring Google Assistant into their products “in an affordable and easy-to-implement way.”

The company also confirmed that it is bringing the Google Assistant to the Sonos One and Sonos Beam speakers, which will allow users to control their favourite music, podcasts, and radio stations from anywhere in their home without ever picking up the phone. Later in 2019, the Assistant will be coming to more popular media and entertainment devices, including television sets from Samsung. “You’ll be able to use your voice to turn on the TV, change volume and channels, and switch between inputs.”

Even at this year’s CES, some of the company’s partners, including Sony, Hisense, Philips, TCL, Skyworth, Xiaomi and Haier, are showcasing Android TV devices that come with Google Assistant. Google pointed out that its Assistant works with over 1,600 home automation brands and over 10,000 devices. Interestingly, Amazon had announced around 70 products at its ‘Alexa event’ held at its headquarters in Seattle in September last year.

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