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The everyday use for in-vehicle translators

It’s not uncommon to know someone who can speak a second language. Nor is it, uncommon to know someone who can’t speak the same language as you.

Let’s take the UK as an example. The 2011 Census report stated that 138,000 of people living in the UK do not speak English. Some of these people may work with you or be someone you regularly encounter. So a device that eliminated that language barrier would be pretty nifty…wouldn’t it?

Luxoft, a global IT service provider, will be exhibiting a new in-vehicle translator feature co-developed with Ford at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. Designed to enable a passenger and driver who do not speak the same language to communicate, this latest innovation is powered by a SmartDeviceLink (SDL) enabled in-vehicle infotainment system.

The SDL translator feature uses cloud-based translation services, and does not require passengers to preload an app in their smartphones. Instead, the driver of the commercial vehicle will have downloaded the SDL-enabled app on their phone, and can start the system in the vehicle when a passenger enters.

Oleg Gusikhin, technical leader of advanced connectivity services and mobility applications at Ford, said: “What’s unique about this application of SDL technology is that it enhances the digital experience in the car for the passenger, as well as the driver. This feature could help make the ride-sharing experience more enjoyable by aiding the communication between passenger and driver.”

This isn’t the first breakthrough with translators, with apps that can scan written words and have them appear in a language of your choice, and wearable devices, such as earpieces, that translate as the person speaks, available. What do they have in common? They’re portable. So why create a device just for your car?

This sprung a debate at New Electronics. How often have you shared a car journey with someone who does not speak the same language as you? …Sure, it’s not entirely implausible, but likely…?

In my opinion, the device is ‘pretty cool’. But in what situation is it useful? Let’s create some scenarios and see.

Scenario a:

French speaking passenger steps into an English speaking taxi driver’s car.

Scenario b:

Military vehicle being operated by a team of people who speak two different languages.

Scenario c:

Work organsied car share scheme matches Polish speaking employee with English speaking employee.

Love Actually demonstrated this predicament years ago in fact. The Portuguese woman and Colin Firth shared a ride, but were unable to communicate, but fell in love anyway.

The film might have been a tad different if they’d had this in-vehicle tool. So, what did they do? Well, they learnt each other’s languages. This begs the question are we becoming too reliant on translators? Will some languages begin to die out? Or will translation devices enable us a better way to communicate with those we’ve not been able to speak to. Will this kind of device provide us with a better way to learn another’s language?

Perhaps an in-vehicle translation device is more useful than we think. Maybe this will lead onto further developments, perhaps being integrated into some of the scenarios I mentioned above or used in ways we cannot fathom yet.

Or, am I simply creating fictional romantised scenarios? I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s not an everyday electronic, but in the right situation it could certainly change the ways we communicate.

I’m asking a lot of questions here, but it’s questions that lead to provocative thought and provocative thought that leads us to truly unique and valuable innovation. Let’s wait and see what happens.

Bethan Grylls

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