Amazon Alexa gets real-time translation functionality
In brief: Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, is always improving, but it just received a major upgrade today. Right now, anyone with an Alexa-powered device can test out the AI’s new “Live Translation” feature. As the name implies, this tool lets Alexa act as an interpreter for a pair of individuals who speak different languages.
All you have to do to activate Live Translation is “ask Alexa to initiate a translation session.” Amazon didn’t say exactly what keywords will trigger this feature, but we assume something like “Alexa, start translating” will probably do the trick.
For now, Live Translation works with six “language pairs,” including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Hindi.
In Amazon’s announcement post, it shows Live Translation working on an Echo Show, between an English speaker and a Spanish speaker. The device displays the original message — or what it thinks the original message is — and then a translated version below it; intended for the other party’s eyes. On Echo devices without a screen, like the normal Echo or Echo Dot, Alexa will verbally translate each side’s messages.
If you’re curious about how this technology works, Amazon’s Shirin Saleem and Roland Maas go into great detail about the topic in their announcement post. They describe how their AI model was trained, and how they taught it to determine when a user has finished speaking (versus a normal pause in conversation).