Not content with solving every sudoku puzzle, Google has now dismantled the language barrier.
The search giant last night launched an application that allows a mobile phone to instantly translate a conversation.
Users speaking into a device running Google’s own Android operating system will hear their words translated into another language, and their conversation partner’s words will then be translated back into their original tongue.
Although users must press “submit” between each statement, Google’s Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said that he expects the service to operate in “real-time” within 18 months.
The free Google Translate mobile application calls the new feature “conversation mode”. It works by recording a user’s speech and then sending it to Google’s servers.
They recognise it, convert it to text, translate it and then send audio in a new language back to the phone.
Google translates text by using a verified index of official translations, often provided by the EU and the UN.
In this way it treats translation as a kind of search, similar to the sort of searches used by web users every day.
The service will launch in a trial “alpha” version that will only work in Spanish and English, but Google says it expects to launch other languages in the fairly near future.