"A World Without Language Barriers"

After centuries of separation and misunderstandings, we are lucky to be living in the generation that will see an end to language barriers between the peoples of our planet.  Automatic translation of text is now becoming ubiquitous on the internet, and even communication by voice between people speaking different languages is now becoming a reality for everyone.

And it all began with Computer Science explorations at Carnegie Mellon.  Early breakthroughs in large vocabulary speech recognition, machine translation and neural networks prepared the way for the development of first speech-to-speech translation systems in the early 90’s.  Over the 25 years of research that followed, what seemed a crazy idea at first, blossomed into an array of practical interpreting systems that revolutionize modern human communication today:  Cross-language interpretation systems that bring people closer together than ever before.

In this talk, I will reminisce, present videos, demos and anecdotes from highlights along this journey:  

  • Speech translators running on workstations, laptops and smartphones for tourists, medical doctors and international relief workers,
  • Communication on tablets in Humanitarian and Government Missions
  • Road sign interpreters that translate road signs while traveling abroad
  • Multilingual subtitling and translation of TV broadcasts
  • Automatic simultaneous Interpretation of lectures given in foreign languages
  • Tools and Technology that facilitate and support human interpreters at the European Parliament

I will review algorithmic advances, progress in performance and usability, and discuss remaining scientific challenges.  And I will speculate on a future without language barriers.