Imagine speaking Spanish to someone on your mobile phone, with the other side hearing in real time a translation to their language. Google has already imagined this with their latest endeavor: real-time spoken-language translation. The software being developed would translate what you are saying into the language of the speaker on the other end of the line and vice versa, reported the Times UK.
The new service should be up and running in the next few years, Franz Och, head of Google’s translation services, said in the article. “Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch,” he said. “But recognition should be effective with mobile phones because by nature they are personal to you.”
What Och meant was the software would actually be able to learn your accent, dialect and tone, and become more accurate over time, essentially learning from its mistakes. — Katie Serignese
Can Google Buzz Facebook’s towers?
Google is once again trying to take on Facebook in the social-networking sphere with Google Buzz. Buzz is designed to allow Gmail users to track each other via status updates, and to share websites, audio and video.
All nice features, but they don’t bring anything new to the table, nor do they provide anything inherently valuable. But what just might make Buzz competitive is its ability to link users’ search results, aggregating data and making it easier to index and organize that information.
Facebook’s ability to ease online social interactions makes it popular, but its database of user content and information makes it valuable to business interests. If Google can successfully gather the spending habits, interests and tastes of its users, and then organize it in a way useful to retailers and marketers, then Facebook will finally have a worthy competitor. But will it be worth it for us? — Adam LoBelia
Missing Apple at Macworld
I have a confession to make: when I was a teenager, I was a Mac fanboy. I put passwords on PCs in CompUSA, tried to sell people Macs whenever I would wander into a computer store, and even shaved an Apple into the back of my head.
Needless to say, I came to my senses. Ironically, when Apple moved to OS X, I moved on to Linux. I still use the Mac, but that command line in OS X was like a gateway drug to real computer use for me.
So, it is with some amount of despair I noticed that this year’s Macworld is a vastly different show than in previous years. I’ve attended a Macworld every year since 1998, and this is the first I’ve attended without Apple. Apple, of course, pulled out of the conference because it was sick of hitting IDG’s deadlines for product releases, and of paying for a booth at its own show.
Of course, without Apple, Macworld is a very different show. It’s almost entirely iPhone accessories, carrying cases, plastic covers and trinkets, now. The traditional companies are there, of course, and Adobe, FileMaker and Microsoft are all hawking their wares. But I can’t help but feel that this expo has changed from a trade show to a temporary shopping mall that favors products rendered in white. Well, at least everything’s not Bondi blue anymore. — Alex Handy
Moglen says distributed Internet is best
I spent one of my Fridays last month sitting through a two-hour seminar on privacy in the cloud. Software Freedom Law Center’s Eben Moglen was the guest speaker, and he raised many interesting points about cloud computing.
Moglen contends that the client/server architecture is just begging to be abused, and that cloud providers will always be one step ahead of efforts to protect people’s privacy. He called for a peer-to-peer equivalent of Facebook that would work from a handheld device running open-source software.
Moglen believes that it is fundamentally important to return the Internet to the distributed architecture that it was envisioned to have in the first place. It will be an interesting effort to follow, but I am not optimistic that most people will be motivated or inclined to make the switch. — David Worthington