Sometime in 2013 I predict there will be a product/service that is a combination of video remote interpreting and machine translation. First, lets define the terms and give examples of machine translation and remote interpreting. As a primer, I encourage reading this recent article by Barry Slaughter Olsen on technology in the world of interpretation.
Remote interpreting is when the interpreter is not physically located in the same location where the two different languages are being spoken. Today there are two primary modalities of remote interpreting. OPI or Over The Phone Interpreting and VRI or Video Remote Interpreting. Certified Languages International is an example of one of the leading companies providing OPI. These OPI companies have vast networks of interpreters and sophisticated routing methods to immediately connect a qualified interpreter when a customer calls desiring interpretation services. Soltrite is an example of a company that provides VRI technology.
Machine Translation + Remote interpreting
Machine translation is getting more accurate all the time but it still produces many errors and is not appropriate for applications when high accuracy is required. Think of applications such as doctor-patient consultations or courtrooms. Also, machines may never be able to accurately convey non verbal emotional queues.
The need for interpretation powered by people will never go away. At the same time, the demand for translation and interpretation will only grow as our world becomes more connected with technology and we are one click away from anyone. (Who may likely not speak your language!)
Interpretation powered by a live person will always have significant expense since no one can or should work for free. This means there are many situations where people struggle with language issues but are not willing or logistically able to bring in the service of an interpreter. As machine language performance improves we will find more and more use cases being adopted. Inevitably there will be cases when machine translation is being used and it just isn’t getting the job done. This is where a bit of technology magic can save the day.
Soon machine language applications will be licensed to large organizations. Everyone in the organization could use the application with no incremental cost. (This assumes the product would be licensed without a usage fee.) This would likely mean a great increase in cross language communication since it is now easy and cost effective to do so. This also means that the need for live high quality remote interpretation will increase since people will be using machine translation much more and getting into situations when the lack of accuracy will cause a problem. Here is where the magic will happen.
I can envision a button on the screen that says something like “click here for a live interpreter”. A company such as Soltrite will integrate to a machine language program and when that button is pressed we will look to see what interpreters are logged in to the video remote interpreting application with the language skill sets that are being used. A company such as Certified Languages International will video enable some of their phone interpreters and manage the work force so that necessary staffing is present when the button is pressed. The concept is simple but the details and execution will be difficult.
Keep in mind this is hypothetical and the companies mentioned are just for example purposes. But mark my words that someone will create a solution similar to this in 2013. Anyone interested in partnering with Soltrite to make this vision possible?