Google’s AR translation glasses: it’s really not that simple

Google’s AR translation glasses: it’s really not that simple

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At the extremity of its I/O presumption connected Wednesday, Google pulled retired a “one much thing”-type surprise. In a abbreviated video, Google showed disconnected a brace of augmented world glasses that person 1 intent — displaying audible connection translations close successful beforehand of your eyeballs. In the video, Google merchandise manager Max Spear called the capableness of this prototype “subtitles for the world,” and we spot household members communicating for the archetypal time.

Now clasp connected conscionable a second. Like galore people, we’ve utilized Google Translate earlier and mostly deliberation of it arsenic a precise awesome instrumentality that happens to marque a batch of embarrassing misfires. While we mightiness spot it to get america directions to the bus, that’s obscurity adjacent the aforesaid happening arsenic trusting it to correctly construe and relay our parents’ puerility stories. And hasn’t Google said it’s yet breaking down the connection obstruction before?

In 2017, Google marketed real-time translation arsenic a diagnostic of its archetypal Pixel Buds. Our erstwhile workfellow Sean O’Kane described the experience arsenic “a laudable thought with a lamentable execution” and reported that immoderate of the radical helium tried it with said it sounded similar helium was a five-year-old. That’s not rather what Google showed disconnected successful its video.

Also, we don’t privation to brushwood past the information that Google’s promising that this translation volition hap inside a brace of AR glasses. Not to deed astatine a sore spot, but the world of augmented world hasn’t truly adjacent caught up to Google’s concept video from a decennary ago. You know, the 1 that acted arsenic a predecessor to the much-maligned and embarrassing-to-wear Google Glass?

To beryllium fair, Google’s AR translation glasses look overmuch much focused than what Glass was trying to accomplish. From what Google showed, they’re meant to bash 1 happening — show translated substance — not enactment arsenic an ambient computing acquisition that could regenerate a smartphone. But adjacent then, making AR glasses isn’t easy. Even a mean magnitude of ambient airy tin marque viewing substance connected see-through screens very difficult. It’s challenging capable to work subtitles connected a TV with immoderate glare from the prima done a window; present ideate that acquisition but strapped to your look (and with the added unit of engaging successful a speech with idiosyncratic that you can’t recognize connected your own).

But hey, exertion moves rapidly — Google whitethorn beryllium capable to flooded a hurdle that has stymied its competitors. That wouldn’t alteration the information that Google Translate is not a magic slug for cross-language conversation. If you’ve ever tried having an existent speech done a translation app, past you astir apt cognize that you indispensable talk slowly. And methodically. And clearly. Unless you privation to hazard a garbled translation. One gaffe of the tongue, and you mightiness conscionable beryllium done.

People don’t converse successful a vacuum oregon similar machines do. Just similar we code-switch erstwhile speaking to dependable assistants similar Alexa, Siri, oregon the Google Assistant, we cognize we person to usage overmuch simpler sentences erstwhile we’re dealing with instrumentality translation. And adjacent erstwhile we bash talk correctly, the translation tin inactive travel retired awkward and misconstrued. Some of our Verge colleagues fluent successful Korean pointed retired that Google’s ain pre-roll countdown for I/O displayed an honorific mentation of “Welcome” successful Korean that cipher really uses.

That mildly embarrassing flub pales successful examination to the information that, according to tweets from Rami Ismail and Sam Ettinger, Google showed implicit fractional a twelve backwards, broken, oregon different incorrect scripts connected a descent during its Translate presentation. (Android Police notes that a Google worker has acknowledged the mistake, and that it’s been corrected successful the YouTube mentation of the keynote.) To beryllium clear, it’s not that we expect perfection — but Google’s trying to archer america that it’s adjacent to cracking real-time translation, and those kinds of mistakes marque that look incredibly unlikely.

Congrats to @Google for getting Arabic publication backwards & disconnected during @sundarpichai's presumption connected *Google Translate*, due to the fact that tiny autarkic startups similar Google can't spend to prosecute anyone with a 4 twelvemonth olds' simple schoolhouse level cognition of Arabic writing.

— Rami Ismail (رامي) (@tha_rami) May 11, 2022

Google is trying to lick an immensely complicated problem. Translating words is easy; figuring retired grammar is hard but possible. But connection and connection are acold much analyzable than conscionable those 2 things. As a comparatively elemental example, Antonio’s parent speaks 3 languages (Italian, Spanish, and English). She’ll sometimes get words from connection to connection mid-sentence — including her determination Italian dialect (which is similar a 4th language). That benignant of happening is comparatively casual for a quality to parse, but could Google’s prototype glasses woody with it? Never caput the messier parts of speech similar unclear references, incomplete thoughts, oregon innuendo.

It’s not that Google’s extremity isn’t admirable. We perfectly privation to unrecorded successful a satellite wherever everyone gets to acquisition what the probe participants successful the video do, staring with wide-eyed wonderment arsenic they spot their loved ones’ words look earlier them. Breaking down connection barriers and knowing each different successful ways we couldn’t earlier is thing the satellite needs mode much of; it’s conscionable that there’s a agelong mode to spell earlier we scope that future. Machine translation is present and has been for a agelong time. But contempt the plethora of languages it tin handle, it doesn’t talk quality yet.