At the fifth annual LAUNCH festival, an ambitious startup named Vocre made a strong debut for what it calls the "next level" in language translation.
Vocre 2.0's innovation? A real-time translation service that helps people who speak different native tongues to communicate through live video.
Last year, Vocre caught attention with its original iOS release, securing 'Best Mobile App' and 'Audience Choice' awards at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Battlefield. The soon to be released Vocre 2.0 version includes a real-time video display similar to Facetime, not only allowing simultaneous translation of the conversation, but adding body language -- which is required to help us communicate effectively.
Andrew Lauder, co-founder and CEO, said at the launch:
"To all those who thought it was magical how we made sci-fi fantasy a reality with Vocre 1.0, we’re here to further blow their minds with today’s sneak peek at Vocre 2.0.
The language translation market is ripe for innovation and disruption and our intent is to continually usher in services and products that up the ante and help make it easier to remove all language barriers from the world. We strongly believe Vocre 2.0 is the beginning of a new communication revolution by enabling anyone to carry an interpreter in their pocket."
Vocre 2.0 Features include:
- Live translated video calling.
- Translated messaging.
- Conversation History.
- A free model that will be ad-supported.
- Premium Services: Live/On-Demand Human Translator/Interpreter API and an improved translation database.
No real-time translator will ever be perfect. Everything from nuance and tone to accents or the constant use of phrasal verbs (for example, sit up, get down, ring back) that those who speak English delight in using to confuse foreign speakers can become misinterpreted.
There are thousands and thousands of phrases that can only be learnt by rote, as within themselves, they do not always make sense in terms of verb use, subject, or grammar. Trying to explain and help students memorize list upon list of phrasal verbs is one of the most painful things that ESL teachers face. Several examples are:
- back (+object) up Vs back (+subject) up
- to break down (object/subject)
- hand out/ hand over / hand in
When you attempt to teach students how these can be roughly translated, it is not always successful, and in the end, basic, effective communication is far more valuable than solid fluency.
Any automated translation function will not take in to account local dialect or phrases, and misinterpretation is a possibility. Not only this, but some things simply cannot be directly translated.
However, any service like this beta version of Vocre can make communication -- if not necessarily fluent or natural -- easier in a multicultural world can only be to the good. For business users or tourists, possessing a service that they can rely upon in these situations could make it an invaluable and popular tool in the future.
One thing that particularly impressed me, coming from a language-teaching background, is the fact that it could remove frequent the pain and embarrassment of one scenario that strikes fear into the heart of a language learner -- talking on the phone. Without body language, eye contact or expression, communicating in a secondary language, especially for those who are not fluent, can be extremely difficult.
Although I consider myself proficient in Spanish, the idea of talking on the phone in my third language terrifies me. I would sign up for this service purely to take care of that scenario -- and for the video calling feature which makes things even easier.
The debut of Vocre 2.0 follows last week's release of Vocre 1.1, which is now free and supports 23 languages in total. These languages are Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
The Vocre app is available at the App store, and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.