It was actually making the video that brought me around on the ili. How well it worked, understanding what I said and quickly translating it, all without the help of the Internet, that was pretty neat. Right now, I can see this coming in handy for a lot of people. In the near future, though, I’m positive Trek’s Universal Translator, or the Babel fish, or C-3P0, will all definitely be possible soon.
It's important to keep in mind there’s no such thing as “real time translation” yet, despite what Google says. We’re still not quite there for the Star Trek-style Universal Translator that just speaks in your language while someone else is speaking. Right now it’s sentence (pause) by sentence (pause), give or take a few sentences. No translator is meant to tell your life story. Mostly it’s for asking for the bathroom. The ili does that, and a lot more. It's positioned as travel-centric, but I threw a lot of random phrases its way and it did pretty well. Maybe it can't translate random medical conditions, but just about anything a traveler would need should be covered.
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The next question you want to ask yourself is whether you need an electronic translator that recognizes speech. Thanks to the growing development in technology it is now possible to speak directly into your electronic translator and receive an automated translation in the other language of choice. Sounds incredible? Well, it is. Say “good afternoon” and you’ll hear "konnichiwa" back in Japanese. It’s important to note that speech recognition is quite a new technology and it still requires an Internet connection for accurate translations.
Language Scientific was founded in 1999 by a group of international scientists and engineers. The company was born out of the group’s frustration with the inaccurate technical and scientific translations they discovered while working together on a nuclear non-proliferation project for the US Department of Energy. Today, Language Scientific has grown to include over 5,000 highly specialized translators.
I’m split on the ili in two ways. I travel a lot. For the last 3+ years I’ve spent extended time in over 30 countries across 5 continents. In all that time I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed any translator. While Mandarin is the most-spoken first language in the world (Spanish being second), English is by far the most prevalent second language. It’s essentially the lingua franca of the world, especially in touristy places. In the times during my travels there was no common language between me and someone, a big smile and hand gestures worked wonders.