As a catastrophical & sci-fic film, The Wandering Earth 2 saw huge success in China and triggered a movie-watching craze in cinemas throughout North America, Britain, Australia and many Southeast Asian countries. The AI translator in the movie, depicted as a small microphone-earpiece assembly and was able to perform simultaneous interpretation, hinted at the potential application of intelligent translation.
Simultaneous, cross-language interpretation with machines has been a common feature of sci-fi films. In Star Trek (2009), members of the Starfleet have universal translators built in to their lapel badges that can translate all of the languages they hear into languages that they can understand. In addition, in Star Wars, the popular, human-like robot C-3PO could easily use more than 6 million communication methods.
These sci-fi depictions of universal translators are often the goals held in mind as many technology giants strive to develop their own product. At the Google I/O Conference in 2022, Google released a demonstration video of its AR glasses. This pair of glasses could translate a languags the user hears into the target language they set in real time, and then present it in the form of subtitles. With such help, there will be no obstacles for cross-language communication whether users are in the real world or the virtual world.
In the past five years, various intelligent translation products have appeared on the Chinese market, such as voice translators or translation headphones for tourists, while AI simultaneous interpretation systems for international conferences and scanning pens for language learners have also popped up. These technologies have all been geared towards making translation seamless and convenient for everybody.
All of these products use built-in microphones to capture voice and take pictures with cameras. For speech information, automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology is used to recognize the text. For pictures, optical character recognition (OCR) technology is used to extract characters. Then, the text is sent into a machine translation system before finally being generated or read out by text-to-speech (TTS) technology.
In China, Shenzhen brings together all the core resources in the intelligent translation field, including chip providers Rockchip and Ingenic Semiconductor, consumer electronics makers Little Genius, Newsmy and Hanwang Technology, and voice/machine translation software solution providers Aispeech, Unisound and NiuTrans. NiuTrans, for example, as one of the most professional machine translation software suppliers in China, has set up a sales office in Shenzhen. With strong technical capabilities, NiuTrans has conducted cooperation with dozens of enterprises in the intelligent translation industry chain.
China’s intelligent translation equipment market has been booming. For instance, according to a research report by Qianzhan Research Institute in 2019, the size of the voice translator market in China will increase from 2.77 billion yuan ($400 million) in 2020 to 5.8 billion yuan, and the annual CAGR rate will reach 16.5% by 2026. With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, traveling abroad and trade exchanges will drive the demand for cross-language communication and stimulate the demand for various intelligent translation devices.