Language is a beautiful thing. Yet, for some, there are large barriers to speaking with natives in other countries. Google Translate has made some strides in overcoming those obstacles in recent years and has always been useful to me as I learn other languages. It's because it is more than just a simple dictionary. So the news announced today that Translate is becoming more powerful and useful with what Google calls Neural Machine Translation is exciting.
Google Maps is my go-to tool for finding local businesses, but it isn't always the most transparent way to see them at a glance. For example, I'll search for a café in a major retail hub, but half the results will be from the Starbucks inside Target or the little deli inside a grocery store - not exactly what I'm looking for in a quiet meal. Things might soon get a little easier on that account: the Google Asia Pacific blog says that upcoming versions of Google Maps will list business types right in the map view... but only in Japan for now.
Google Translate is old-hat. Today's generation of smartphone users don't want to type words into a text field and watch it appear in another language. They want to enter those characters into a word processor, spit them out onto fresh white printer paper, and feed that tree product into a Xerox machine.
Alternatively, they can send a picture of a document they've snapped a picture of. Either way, both of these possibilities are now available through the Xerox Easy Translator service launching today in Australia, Canada, Europe, South America, and the US.
Many of us Android users (and Android Police readers) have been accustomed to using Google Translate to fill our language knowledge gaps, but we often forget the other challenger in the arena: Microsoft Translator. The app was first released last August and when I looked at it back then and compared it to Google's offering, I found it a worthy challenger, but one that lacked a couple of key features.
When Microsoft Translator was released a few months ago, I went through an extensive comparison between it and Google Translate and came out impressed by Microsoft's efforts, but not completely swayed. At the time, Translator had a major advantage in its Android Wear support (a gap that Google has since closed) but lacked many other features like offline functionality, camera view, and most importantly the live conversation mode. Well, Translator has now jumped that last hurdle and added natural conversation support in its app.
The mode works for a few select languages already: Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, with more promised to be added in the future.
Perhaps you recall a feature spotlight from some weeks ago that explained Google's new universal translation option, which was enabled by the Google Translate v4.3 update. This works with the aid of the new text selection actions included in Android 6.0. The latest Chrome Dev version in the Play Store has now added support for instant translation via the new text selection UI, but again, only on Marshmallow.
Are you tired of having to copy text, flip to the Translate app, paste the text, copy the translated text, then paste it back into whatever you're working on? It appears Google has you covered, as long as you're running Android 6.0. Taking advantage of Marshmallow's new contextual selection functionality, it appears that the latest version of the Google Translate app has added the ability to translate words on the fly from text fields that follow the new Text Selection behavior.
It goes without saying that this is incredibly useful. Besides translate, the mind wanders at the possibility of what else could be done with the contextual selection features in Marshmallow.
So you know how when you don't understand what someone's saying on Google+, you click that conveniently located translate button that appears at the bottom of their post and whammo, everything suddenly makes sense? Well, Yelp is planning on bringing some of the magic over to its mobile app. Users will be able to click a button to instantly translate reviews. It may not sound like much, but it could really come in handy when traveling in a country where the local residents speak a different language and you really just want to know where to get a plate of breakfast without breaking the bank.
Google translate can be tricked into providing some hilarious results, but for average queries, it generally does a really good job of translating and offering additional information like synonyms and usage types. It looks like Translate on the web is learning a couple of new tricks though - recently, Google flipped the switch allowing Translate to show usage examples and word definitions. Various alternate translations (sorted by frequency) still appear on the right, while the new bits of info appear in a column on the left.
The additional info may seem like a minor addition, but it's a feature that could be very useful to those in the process of learning a language.