Communion Of Dreams

Speaking with one voice.
March 15, 2012, 9:42 am
Filed under: Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, Star Trek, tech

From late in Chapter Two:

“All right. Let’s get her inside and get Seth working with her. By the way, what’s her name?”

“Chu Ling.”

Jon nodded his head, touched the wafer under his ear. “Seth, download the record of the last few minutes from my pc. Then make the necessary arrangements for us to get inside with the girl. I’ll meet you in the conference room; since she isn’t wired, you’ll have to conduct the tests from the holo projector there. And tell Magurshak I’m on my way to lunch.”


“Let’s go.” Jon looked to Gish and the young girl.

“Oh, and Seth . . . ”


“Prepare a Mandarin language program for me, OK?”

“It’s waiting for you.”

From this past Monday:

Microsoft unveils universal translator that converts your voice into another language

Microsoft Research has shown off software that translates your spoken words into another language while preserving the accent, timbre, and intonation of your actual voice.

In a demo of the prototype software (starts around the 12 minute mark), Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s chief research officer, says a long sentence in English, and then has it translated into Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin. You can definitely hear an edge of digitized “Microsoft Sam,” but overall it’s remarkable how the three translations still sound just like Rashid.

In order for the translation system to do its work it needs about an hour of training, which allows it to create a model of your voice. This model is then mushed into Microsoft’s standard text-to-speech model for the target translation language. For example, Microsoft’s standard model of Spanish will have a default “S” (ess) sound, but the training process replaces it with your “S” sound. This is done for every individual sound (phoneme) in Microsoft’s text-to-speech model for Spanish. The creator of the software, Frank Soong, says that this approach can be used to translate between all 26 languages supported by the Microsoft Speech Platform, which covers most of the world’s major languages.

OK, first thing: this is *NOT* the universal translator from Star Trek.

But it is *exactly* what I had envisioned as the tech that Jon asks Seth to use in the excerpt from Communion of Dreams quoted above. The idea is that Seth would have such a wide selection of Jon’s phonemes in his knowledge base that it would be simple for him to use that for translation. In this case, all he would have to do is install the necessary program files into Jon’s embedded personal pc – so that Jon could use it to communicate with the girl whether or not Seth was ‘present’.

So, yeah, another prediction nailed.

Jim Downey

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