Amazon just launched a Live Translation feature for Echo devices

Amazon just launched a Live Translation feature for Echo devices

Amazon has announced Alexa now supports a Live Translation feature, allowing users to communicate with each other even if they don’t speak the same language. It’s like having your own personal translator, with Alexa translating both sides of the conversation.

With Live Translation, users can ask Alexa to translate English, Spanish, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Hindi. Amazon said the feature is supported on Echo devices with locale set to English U.S.

“The Live Translation feature leverages several existing Amazon systems, including Alexa’s automatic-speech-recognition (ASR) system, Amazon Translate, and Alexa’s text-to-speech system, with the overall architecture and machine learning models designed and optimized for conversational-speech translation,” Amazon said in a blog post.

What’s cool is if you own an Echo Show device, you can see the Live Translation feature on the display, so you can easily follow along. Imagine using Alexa’s new skill with someone who’s visiting from abroad. It opens up a lot of possibilities and allows more people than ever to easily communicate.

“Like most ASR systems, the ones we use for live translation include both an acoustic model and a language model,” Amazon said. “The acoustic model converts audio into phonemes, the smallest units of speech; the language model encodes the probabilities of particular strings of words, which helps the ASR system decide between alternative interpretations of the same sequence of phonemes.”

To provide users with an experience that feels natural, Amazon said it adapted to conversational speech by modifying Alexa’s “end-pointer,” which determines when a person has finished speaking. Alexa can already identify pauses in the middle and end of sentences; the end-pointer was modified to tolerate longer pauses for the Live Translation feature.

For those keeping track, Google offers something similar called Interpreter Mode, which has been available for a while now. It’s unclear how the two services compare, but it’s nice to have more options. You might be doing less traveling this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but if you have something planned for next year, you should have no problem communicating when you get there.

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Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.