Google's Translatotron can translate speech in the speaker's voice

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Speaking another language may be getting easier. Google is showing off Translatotron, a first-of-its-kind translation model that can directly convert speech from one language into another while maintaining a speaker’s voice and cadence. The tool forgoes the usual step of translating speech to text and back to speech, which can often lead to errors along the way. Instead, the end-to-end technique directly translates a speaker’s voice into another language. The company is hoping the development will open up future developments using the direct translation model.

According to Google, Translatotron uses a sequence-to-sequence network model that takes a voice input, processes it as a spectrogram — a visual representation of frequencies — and generates a new spectrogram in a target language. The result is a much faster translation with less likelihood of something getting lost along the way. The tool also works with an optional speaker encoder component, which works to maintain a speaker’s voice. The translated speech is still synthesized and sounds a bit robotic, but can effectively maintain some elements of a speaker’s voice. You can listen to samples of Translatotron’s attempts to maintain a speaker’s voice as it completes translations on Google Research’s GitHub page. Some are certainly better than others, but it’s a start.

Model architecture of Translatotron

Google has been fine-tuning its translations in recent months. Last year, the company introduced accents in Google Translate that can speak a variety of languages in region-based pronunciations and added more langauges to its real-time translation feature. Earlier this year, Google Assistant got an “interpreter mode” for smart displays and speakers that can between 26 languages.

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Google's iOS keyboard can translate text into more than 100 languages


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If you use Google’s iOS keyboard Gboard, you can now translate to and from all languages supported by Google Translate — that’s currently 103. This means you can effectively type and translate in any supported language, in any app on your iPhone. The feature is a welcome addition, but it’s a bit overdue. Gboard has supported translation on Android since 2017.

The feature is available with Gboard version 1.42 and iPhones and iPads with iOS 9 and up. As you type, you’ll find the translation in the suggestion strip or by pressing the Google button. The app automatically detects the language you’re typing in and lets you then select which language you want to translate to. You’ll also be able to paste text and translate it to or from any supported language.

In addition to the translation feature, Gboard has language support for 685 languages. To help people communicate in their first language, Gboard offers keyboard layouts tuned for each language, as well as autocorrect and predictive text features. Google has been steadily adding languages to Google Translate, and we can expect the feature to continue to grow on iOS.

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Google Translate gets rid of some gender biases

Google is by no means perfect when it comes to issues relating to gender, but it’s clear the company is trying. Google recently made some important changes to its Translate tool — reducing gender bias by providing both masculine and feminine translations for gender-neutral words. Previously, Google would default gender-neutral words to the masculine form.

This comes after Google has been specifically called out for its biases in translate and autocomplete. Back in February, Forbes reported how examples of gender bias in Translate began popping up on social media.

“So when the model produced one translation, it inadvertently replicated gender biases that already existed,” Google Translate Product Manager James Kuczmarski wrote on the company blog. “For example: it would skew masculine for words like ‘strong’ or ‘doctor,’ and feminine for other words, like ‘nurse’ or ‘beautiful.’”

gender specific translation

Now, Google will offer both feminine and masculine translations for single words when translating from English to French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish, as well as when translating from Turkish to English. Down the road, Google says it does plan to address non-binary gender in translations. Google will also eventually bring this to its iOS and Android apps, and address gender biases in auto-complete.

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