More of a Babel facehugger than a Babel fish
October 27, 2006 2:01 AM   Subscribe

You whisper "Je t'aime", the machine says "I love you". Carnegie Mellon offer the prospect of a real-time automatic face-mounted translation device.
posted by imperium (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
And the BBC get the reference completely wrong. Oh well.
posted by imperium at 2:14 AM on October 27, 2006


Bien, ils ont essayé...
posted by blacklite at 2:20 AM on October 27, 2006


It sounds interesting, but I should have thought a more immediate application for this technology was allowing call centre workers and the like to work without wearing their own voices out.

Really good quality, instant translation involves other formidable challenges which this doesn't seem to bear on.
posted by Phanx at 2:54 AM on October 27, 2006


heh heh, BBC's Tower of Babel: pretty funny! And that picture they included: those 2 guys are obviously both Italian, so what do they need with this Tower of Babel?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:55 AM on October 27, 2006


I whisper "Cheese-powered bung-coring replacement therapy cocoa puffs," the machine says "I fucking quit."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:37 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


En fait, je pense que la meilleure idée est un écouteur qui traduire d'autres personnes. Ce n'est pas difficile de parler d'autre lingua mal, mais l'écoute est tres difficile.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:47 AM on October 27, 2006


Listening: cake, speaking: testicle pain.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:11 AM on October 27, 2006


I want a Babel fish in my ear in case I ever get to see Evegeniy Onegin or Boris Godunov...but it has to sing in reasonable facsimilies of the voices too.

Old computer-translation joke: Machine's built to translate Chinese to idiomatic English & vice versa. They put in "out of sight, out of mind," get back a couple ideograms; put those in as input, get back "invisible schizophrenic."
posted by pax digita at 5:12 AM on October 27, 2006


And the Language Log has a bit of a snit fit at the reporting, basically saying that New Scientist has got a bit enthusiastic.

But it'd be a bit cool wouldn't it...
posted by itsjustanalias at 6:24 AM on October 27, 2006


I found out the hard way why the machine needs to actually say the words, not just print them on a screen. I took a machine translator to Greece so I could translate difficult words. I learned a dirty little secret: many many Greeks cannot read at all. I'm not talking about farmers, I'm talking about white collar workers. People who outwardly appear to be worldly and successful and who are multilingual in positions of authority. I was amazed.
posted by Osmanthus at 6:55 AM on October 27, 2006


Well the BBC didn't really get it completely wrong because the Babel Fish is called a Babel Fish because of the story of the Tower of Babel.
posted by zeoslap at 6:56 AM on October 27, 2006


zeoslap, sure, of course that's where Adams got the word from, but they describe it as "a Tower of Babel device". Surely such a device would be designed to bring linguistic chaos, whereas a Babel Fish would solve same?
posted by imperium at 7:09 AM on October 27, 2006


The system still has some way to go. Faced with a sequence of words it has never heard before, it picks the right phoneme sequence only 62 per cent of the time.

Shaka, when the walls fell.
posted by Opposite George at 7:30 AM on October 27, 2006


I like the term "face-mounted".
posted by craven_morhead at 7:32 AM on October 27, 2006


Maybe if I switch it to Russian and say, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," it'll come out with "The meat is rotten but the vodka is good." Instead of face-mounting, can I have the option of holding it on a large black stick? Can it say "The Bene Gesserit witch must leave"?
posted by adipocere at 7:36 AM on October 27, 2006 [2 favorites]


Old computer-translation joke: Machine's built to translate Chinese to idiomatic English & vice versa. They put in "out of sight, out of mind," get back a couple ideograms; put those in as input, get back "invisible schizophrenic."

Out of curiosity, I tried this with Google's Language Tools. Into Chinese and back I got Sight, out of mind. Italian gave me ,i>from sight, the mind. Korean came out as In the place which is not visible, from mind. Arabic came out with To be absent from the mind. And they obviously hate Microsoft in Iberia and Latin America, because Spanish generated outside Vista, the mind.
posted by rogue haggis landing at 8:14 AM on October 27, 2006


I will believe this technology is anywhere close to availability when they can get the close captioning on TV to work right 100% of the time; a much easier task but still beyond modern abilities
posted by TedW at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2006


This reminds me of when the EU's translation device translated "pass the salt" as "pass the little white slut"
posted by juliarothbort at 10:36 AM on October 27, 2006


adipocere: Can it say "The Bene Gesserit witch must leave"?

Beat me to it!
posted by kid ichorous at 12:01 PM on October 27, 2006


Allan's Stupid Predication #1:
2018: The Babel Fish is Invented
posted by portisfreak at 3:37 PM on October 27, 2006


just a matter of time..
posted by harlanpepper at 12:49 PM on October 30, 2006


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