Google Translate’s new transcription feature, first demoed back in January, is out now for Android users as part of an update to the artificial intelligence-powered mobile app. The feature will allow you to record spoken words in one language and transform them into translated text on your phone, all in real time and without any delay for processing.
The feature will begin rolling out starting today and will be available to all users by the end of the week. The starting languages will be English, French, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Thai. That means you’ll be able to listen to any one of those languages spoken aloud and translate it any one of the other available languages.
This will work live for speeches, lectures, and other spoken word events and from pre-recorded audio, too. That means you could theoretically hold your phone up to computer speakers and play a recording in one language and have it translated into text in another without you having to input the words manually. Google told The Verge in January that it will not support the option to upload audio files at launch, but listening to a live audio source, like your laptop, should work as an alternative method.
Prior to this feature, you could have used Google Translate’s voice option for turning a spoken word, phrase, or sentence from one language into another, including in both text and verbal form. But a Google spokesperson says that part of the app “wasn’t well suited to listen to a longer translated discussion at a conference, a classroom lecture or a video of a lecture, a story from a grandparent, etc.”
To start, this feature will require an internet connection, as Google’s software has to communicate with its Tensor Processing Units (TPUs), a custom type of AI-focused processing chip for use in cloud servers, to perform the transcription live. In fact, a Google spokesperson says the feature works by combining the existing Live Transcribe feature built into the Recorder app on Pixel phones, which normally works offline, with the power of its TPUs in the cloud, thereby creating real-time translated transcription — so long as you have that internet connection to facilitate the link.
Google says the new transcription feature will be Android-only at launch, but the company has plans to bring it to iOS at some point in the future. It should show up as its own “transcribe” option in the app after you’ve updated it. Google also says you’ll be able to pause or restart the transcription by tapping the mic icon as well as change the text size and customize dark theme options in the Translate settings menu.