Hands-free translation technology developed

Friday, 12 January, 2018

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Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) has developed Zero UI automatic interpretation technology, enabling hands-free language translation.

In recent years, the performance of automatic interpretation programs has improved thanks to deep-learning technology. However, most programs required users to touch their smartphone screen before speaking, with the results provided on the screen or through the speaker. This does not enable free conversations, due to slow speed and intermittent interruption, preventing the service from being widely employed.

Zero UI (zero user interface) interpreter technology allows users to look at the face of the person they are talking with, simply wearing a Bluetooth headset and speaking into the attached microphone. Their smartphones automatically detect the languages being spoken, then translate and transmit the conversation between participants. Communication flows almost as quickly as a normal conversation.

ETRI achieved this breakthrough by employing two core technologies, which were subsequently approved as the international standard by the International Organization for Standardization in July 2017 (ISO/IEC 20382-2:2017). The ‘two-channel voice processing technology’ separates the voice detecting channel and the voice input channel, while ‘barge-in technology’ enables voice recognition any time — even when in the middle of playing a synthesised voice.

These new technologies are also expected to result in fewer interpretation errors, especially in noisy places, as each speaker’s voice directly goes into his or her own microphone. They are thus forecast to have significant value at international events.

“This is significant in that the new technology brings us a step closer to genuinely lowering the language barrier in the era of globalisation,” said Sang-hun Kim, a project leader at ETRI.

ETRI plans to test drive its language interpretation technology at the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The institute also plans to conduct additional research on users’ habits and technical issues to ensure adaptation to diverse changes.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/vege

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