It’s a sci-fi trope: A universal translator that allows instantaneous communication between speakers of different languages. The TARDIS does it in Doctor Who, the babble fish serves that function in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and of course the linguist Hoshi Sato had one on the Enterprise.
Cheetah Mobile, a Chinese mobile technology company that’s had some bumps in the U.S. market, is coming out with a new version of an existing translator device, this one promising instantaneous two-way communication in 73 languages thanks to a standalone piece of kit that’s smaller than a smart phone. Powered by Microsoft’s automatic speech recognition software and OrionStar AI Technology, the device is meant to provide users with instant two-way translation in 73 languages while displaying text on a 1.54″ IPS-LCD touch-screen, which offers a text-to-speech function as well.
It’s a nifty-looking device. Conversations can be recorded for up to two hours in HD audio, and noise cancelling microphones enable accurate translation even in noisy environments. Since a a device like this would probably be used in a place like a bar or a city square, that’s a necessary feature.
So is long battery life. Cheetah claims active battery life is up to 12 hours, although the device can be switched to standby for up to 50 days.
It’s not Cheetah’s first foray into two-way translators. The CheetahTALK Plus is actually an improved version of a 2018 device. While garnering generally favorable reviews upon release, some feedback also reported that the device was ill-suited to all but pristine audio conditions when speaking to patient adults. Given the feature emphasis on forthcoming Plus model, it seems those are areas Cheetah Mobile has sought to improve upon.
The company is debuting its device on Indiegogo and has achieved more than 300% of its funding goal as of this writing. An early bird price brings the $199 retail value down to $99. Shipping is set to begin in October 2020.