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Babel Engine

For The Cyborg Diplomat
(+1, -1)
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Babel Fish can translate languages into just about understandable versions of other languages. This is useful.

There are programs that can understand speech somewhat and translate it into data. Also there are machines that can do vice versa.

How about an implant in the mouth that hears your speech and translates it into different languages. Another device mimics the noise of your speech and plays it back down your throat a fraction of a second after thus silencing the noise. A final device would play the translated language. A similar system but in reverse could be planted in the ears so the user could hear the other language as his own.

To activate the system or change languages a control panel could be placed in the back of the hand. All of these devices would be linked by wireless technology. Hopefully they could be inertia charged like watches.

Naturally this would require some major advances in technology but theoretically it's possible.

harderthanjesus, Jun 10 2004

Computer Translators Join The Ranks http://www.cbsnews....ch/main524479.shtml
Other prototypes. [phoenix, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Language Rectifier http://www.technove...ontent.asp?Bnum=658
First reference to machine-translation of human languages in "Ralph 124c 41" by Hugo Gernsback, 1925. [jutta, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Earclip translators http://www.technove...content.asp?Bnum=85
In Gibson's Idoru. [jutta, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Filters http://www.kith.org...s/upper2/JJive.html
Also speak like the swedish chef, and various other "dialects" [caspian, May 20 2006]


       not magic, just exremely hard.   

       might have to carry a suitcase with a computer to do the translating.
DesertFox, Jun 10 2004

       "Universal translators" are well established in SciFi. Current prototypes exist as well. (link)
phoenix, Jun 10 2004

       It's not magic [contracts] and it isn't WIBNI either. All of these technologies are around just in early states. In time they will be much more efficient and compact. I don't see what you think is magic or wishful thinking.   

       I must say, [phoenix] you seem able to find damn near anything on the internet! Seems odd that the military are researching it though. "Ah yes, he said 'argh, they got me.'"
harderthanjesus, Jun 10 2004

       OK, [contracts], but I think you're exaggerating a bit. The only thing like this I had heard of was the Babel Fish in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but then I'm not a huge sci-fi fan. I still don't see why you think this is so unattainable though.
harderthanjesus, Jun 10 2004

       It's not ridiculous, it could be done. That's how soundwaves work.
harderthanjesus, Jun 10 2004

       Why do you need to go through the vocal cords to do this? Coudn't you just have an external speaker? I mean it's not like it's gonna sound like you're speaking that language as a native.
yabba do yabba dabba, Jun 10 2004

       That's true, actually. I only suggest implants for efficiencies sake, so the translation would work faster, like normal conversation. It would be much easier just to have a device.   

       The sound waves have to be travelling a fraction of a second afterwards [contracts].
harderthanjesus, Jun 10 2004

       Thanks for clearing that up [BrauBeaton], my science always could use some doctoring.
harderthanjesus, Jun 11 2004

       Immediate translation's not possible from a linguistic point of view. The translation of the first word in the sentence will often depend on what follows it, and thus it would be necessary for the translator to wait until it had heard sufficient to make an accurate guess at a translation.   

       As I see it, ignoring all the stuff about implants, three components are needed:   

       1) Speech-to-text (voice recognition software) 2) Babel-fish type translator, preferably accurate 3) Text-to-speech   

       All of those exist, though a more accurate translator would be nice. (images of hapless diplomat being shot for unintentionally calling someone's grandmother a horse... reliable translation required)   

       Don't try to silence the speaker; it'd be difficult and would prevent you speaking normally in your own language. Just make sure that the text-to-speech is easily distinguishable from your own voice.
david_scothern, Jun 11 2004

       A very similar translation error happened to a friend of mine. He thought he'd impress his Chinese girlfriend by saying "Hello, Mother" in Chinese to her mother (Mandarin or Cantonese, I forget which). As it turns out, as was explained after the slap, he had inadvertently refered to her mother as a fornicating equine. The perils of a tonal language!
harderthanjesus, Jun 11 2004

       its just our cable co.
dentworth, Jun 11 2004

       [contracts], you are welcome to your opinion of course but if you're going to have such a bad attitude about it then I'm just going to delete your annotations.
harderthanjesus, Jun 11 2004

       Put them across politely then. [dentworth] managed to.
harderthanjesus, Jun 11 2004

       That's a good point, cancellation devices would indeed have to be placed by all of the speech organs in order to work. The speech organs are still producing soundwaves and I maintain that, just like any other soundwave, they can be cancelled out. Maybe not silenced, but certainly greatly reduced in volume. Yes, true, this idea is not currently viable. Would you prefer I took it down and posted it again when the technology exists? I'm more concerned with the point [david_scothern] raised. It's true, the sentence would have to be completed before translation could occur making the silencing pointless. I'm wondering if maybe it would make more sense to put the device in the ears alone, allowing you to, at least, understand any language (to some extent at least).   

       I must have been mistaken when I read malice into this line.   

       //Will this sound cancellation system work if I cram a speaker down your throat? Let's give it a shot.//
harderthanjesus, Jun 11 2004

       Agree to disagree?
harderthanjesus, Jun 11 2004

       //[m-f-d] magic//
That needs to be spelled out: [marked–for–deletion].
Part of this is just bad science: "Another device mimics the noise of your speech and plays it back down your throat a fraction of a second after thus silencing the noise." Bad, very bad.
ldischler, Jun 12 2004

       I think this is a good idea. The necessary equipment (at the rate of which technology is shrinking itself) could be put in place of teeth. As far as the difficulty of translating from one language to another in real time, maybe the diplomat could learn to structure his sentences in the correct format for a different language, then word for word translation would be acceptable, and oodles easier than learning word for word a whole new language each time a problem shows up in such and such. I also believe there are not enough cyborg ideas. So many inefficient bits and pieces that could be replaced. Babel teeth for everyone!
Cheekio, Jun 13 2004

       I'll let this stand. Translating gizmos are an old hat (anyone writing "hard" sci-fi needs to make one up to keep their plot from being entirely about linguistics), but the noise cancellation is a new (to me) twist.   

       People using this will look like very poorly dubbed Japanese animation.
jutta, Jun 15 2004

       This is bad science. Noise cancellation doesn't work that way.
ldischler, Jun 15 2004

       Not even if you can get it close to the source?   

       You're right that it wouldn't work by playing sound down your throat - it would have to produce waves that catch up with the sound going up your throat. Have a sensor ring next to the vocal chords, and an emitter further up, something like that?
jutta, Jun 15 2004

       Drop two pebbles in a pond, very close together. At a distance, you will have some regions of destructive interference, and some of constructive interference. Same thing here, but worse, because the sound will go through multiple reflections before leaving the mouth, thereby washing out the whole effect.
ldischler, Jun 15 2004

       The Star Trek translator presumably does something like this, since we never hear the original klingon under the english translation. No bad Japaneese dubbing though.   

       That isn't necessarily a good argument for this working though.
RobertKidney, Jun 15 2004

       If the mouth and throat are narrower than a wavelength of sound like they are for some of the frequencies, that should make the noise canellation easier.   

       Once you've finished talking and the translation starts coming out, you could try to lip-synch to it.   

       You could add a control to prevent it saying something you've realised you shouldn't have said. This would also work without the translation.
caspian, May 20 2006


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