January 10, 2019
The iFLYTEK Translator 2.0 is a handheld spoken language translator developed with Chinese AI technology and training. The size of a mobile phone, it can translate between any two of 63 languages and is trained in a number of “professional vocabularies.” The device touts a 5-hour battery life, and at $450, would be a useful and affordable business and personal tool. This Chinese tech also raises some interesting privacy and geopolitical issues. In addition to the upgraded Translator 2.0, the company also announced its iFLYREC Series voice-to-text products, AI Note for recording and transcription, and iFLYOS voice-interaction system at CES.
Once you select the two languages you want to translate between, you only deal with a single toggle button on the face of the device. Translation is sequential; you toggle the button one way and speak into the device, within seconds the device will speak the translation, you hand the device to the other person and they repeat the process by toggling the button the other way.
How good is it? I daisy-chained two devices; one set for English-to-Chinese and the other Chinese-to-English. “Hello, it is nice to meet you” returned “Hello, it is nice to meet you.”
However, “CES is a very confusing convention” returned “CES is a very confusing routine.” It isn’t perfect, but it is very good.
The international version of Translator 2.0, which can translate between any two of the 63 languages, will be available in Q2 or Q3. The Chinese version, which only translates between Chinese and the other 62 languages, is available now on Amazon for $429. Both Chinese and international versions of the device can do English-Chinese translation offline. All other translations require processing in the cloud.
There have been a number of news stories recently about iFLYTEK and China’s push to dominate AI by 2030. Many discuss the huge investments companies in China as well as the Chinese government are making in AI, including education, data gathering for AI training, and product development.
Others speculate that the Chinese government intends to build the iFLYTEK AI and related AIs into their telecom infrastructure so they can monitor voice and text conversations in all languages in near real time.
Chinese translation products are already available worldwide. I have not yet seen a news story that has researched the data privacy and security aspects of these translation resources. However, this is an emerging market with a number of other companies, including non-Chinese companies, offering products with similar features.
For those in Las Vegas for CES, iFLYTEK can be found at LVCC South 26025.
‘Star Trek’-Style Translators Closer to Reality at CES Gadget Show, The Japan Times, 1/10/19
Real-Time Translation Devices Step Closer to Reality at CES 2019, Gadgets 360, 1/10/19