Amazon today announced a new Alexa feature, Live Translation, which can be used to translate conversations between people who speak two different languages. The feature uses Amazon’s speech recognition technology and neural machine translation technology, and supports translation between English and French, Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese (Brazilian), German or Italian.
To use live translation, an Echo device owner can type a voice command such as “Alexa, translate French” to begin translating between English and French. When you hear the beep, you can speak in both languages and even take natural pauses between your sentences, claims Amazon. Alexa then automatically recognizes the spoken language and translates each side of the conversation. On Echo Show devices, in addition to listening, you can see the translation.
To end a translation session, say, “Alexa, stop.”
According to a 2018 report by Yahoo Finance, the company is said to be working on a universal language translation feature.
The addition may make Alexa more competitive against Google devices, which can use Google’s existing translation service through the Google Assistant. Google Home devices had introduced the ability to translate conversations into a variety of languages on the fly using a feature called interpreter mode in early 2019. These days, Interpreter Mode works on many Google devices, including smart speakers, smart displays, smart watches, and even the Google Assistant on phones and tablets. However, when Google added live translation to its Pixel Buds, the feature initially dropped out.
How well Alexa’s translation function works will have to be tested further after today’s start.
Live Translation is the latest in a series of language-related updates for Echo devices.
The feature follows the introduction of US Speakers’ Multilingual Mode last year, which allows Alexa users to speak a combination of English and Spanish, French and English, and Hindi and English, for example. Alexa can also translate a single word or phrase into more than 50 supported languages.
According to Amazon, the feature can not only help users communicate better, but also help them learn languages and communicate between hotel guests and employees through Alexa for Hospitality, the platform for the hotel industry.