We’ve seen translators come in all shapes and forms. Earbuds like the ones from Pilot can whisper the meaning of foreign words in your ear but need data connection to work. Baidu’s translator works in real time but it functions on a lease base for airports and travel agencies.
Meanwhile, Time2Translate blends the functions of a smartwatch with those of a translator but doesn’t have a lot of languages available. That’s why we were so impressed by iFlytek’s improved translator at CES 2019.
The device can now translate back and forth in 50 languages, starting with Chinese dialects, which are among the hardest to get right. It does so not by connecting to external translation engines like IBM or Google as Time2Translate and the popular Travis Touch do, but by using its own AI. iFlytek is renowned in China for its advanced neural network which “fueled” the first robot to ever get its license in medicine, Xiaoyi.
It’s no wonder that the AI can cancel out the noise to get the context right and all the nuances intended, as we discovered at the event. You can watch Yue test the English to Chinese translation in the video above (trust us, the reverse works great, too.)
The only caveat is the steep price – around $400 – and the availability. The iFlytek translator is, at the moment, only available in China, the company still testing the waters in US.
However, there might be a silver lining; iFlytek is considering renting the device in airports so tourists can grab one for a fraction of the full price and feel like they belong everywhere they go.