Next Big Thing – 3D translator avatars

Microsoft has already developed the kit to create an avatar that'll speak 26 different languages – with your face and voice

Translators? Sounds like a Star Trek gadget.

Yup – but unlike all the cool things from Star Trek we wish we had (phasers, warp speed, and replicators) this translator is actually real. It was unveiled at Microsoft’s TechFest 2012 as a module for lip-synching with typed words. It uses an avatar that looks like you and talks like you – but in 26 different languages.

So I type and it talks?

Yup, once you’ve had your face recorded talking for about an hour so it can mimic you – a bit like the early versions of speech-to-type software. At the moment you’ll need to use a translator app to generate the foreign text before pasting it into the box. But the person on the other end will see your face speaking in their tongue with perfect lip and even eyebrow synching. Scary stuff – even if it looks a bit like a 90s video game at the moment.

Why would I want that?

Imagine having a businesss meeting or discussing a purchase with someone in China. You'll be able to do it face to face speaking the same language even though neither of you speaks the other person’s native tongue. Sure, it isn’t helping people to learn new languages – but once this is as automated as Siri, Facetime chats and augmented reality conversations using your mobile will bring instant translations that could make language barriers a thing of the past.

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