Just Put This Fish in Your Ear

Okay, so Microsoft may have perpetrated countless offences against technology, including Bob, Clippy, Zune, Explorer, and Windows version We’ll-Get-It-Right-Annnnnny-Day-Now, but they’ve also given us Xbox, Microsoft Office and …

… yeah, that’s about it. Sorry.

Anyway, now they may be able to add “We invented a Babel fish, kind of” to their short list of accomplishments. The Babel fish, as fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy know, allows a user to understand and speak any language in the universe.

Earlier this month, Microsoft demonstrated software that can take a recording of your voice, synthesize it, and then use it to speak in another language. After about an hour of training, the software can read back any text, in any supported language, in the user’s own voice. Listen to the demos here.

So, yes: that’s useful, Microsoft. Good work! But please do remember the words of Douglas Adams: “Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”

See also “Dying Languages Saved by the Technology That’s Killing Them“.

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(The clip above mentions the best-selling atheist author Oolon Colluphid, who turned out to be such a great character that an actor named Richard Dawkins has been playing him for the past couple of decades. Rumor has it that Dawkins forgot it was just a role, and now actually believes his sub-Colluphid gibberish.)

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Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.


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