NEW YORK – While AT&T researcher Srinivas Bangalore stood at his display table at the "Living the Networked Life" research fair here in AT&T's nearly windowless downtown skyscraper, he sent his colleague just a couple yards away. "Pretend he's in Barcelona or something," Bangalore said. The app he was about to demonstrate should work between any two people around the world, but he only had a bit of floor space to show it.
Bangalore called his colleague using a voice over IP chat program, akin to Skype or Apple's FaceTime. The fellow researcher picked up and, pretending to be a hotel front desk clerk, said, "Recepción, buenos días."
On Bangalore's tablet, the screen read "recepción buenas días" in Spanish and "front desk good days" in English. A robotic female voice also said aloud, "Front desk good days."
"Good afternoon," Bangalore replied. "Can I get a taxi, please?"
As he and his colleague acted out their scene, the app translated their voices into text and speech and their languages into the listener's native language continuously. It's an in-development version of AT&T's Translator app that doesn't require the speakers to be physically next to each other. Bangalore demonstrated it April 19 at a research fair AT&T hosted for reporters. The company may make the app available within a year, Bangalore said. They are still researching how to make it work on a large scale, with many users around the world.
InnovationNewsDaily found Google Translate and Jibbigo (for Spanish only) work similarly to AT&T Translator, but isn't aware of Google's or other companies' next-generation plans for their apps.
For AT&T, the ultimate goal is to go app-less, with the translation service starting automatically when it detects callers are trying to reach people who speak another language. "The idea is that it will be inherently part of the network," Bangalore said.
The new app, called Spectra, uses AT&T's Watson technology, which can recognize any human voice and convert text to speech. Bangalore's demonstration came on the heels of AT&T's announcement that it will make Watson-based application programming interfaces available in June, so programmers can make their own apps using Watson.