Could the babel fish be around the corner via Google

As a kid watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy I was particularly fascinated with the babel fish.

Once inserted into the ear, this leech like creature makes any other language instantly understandable by the wearer.

According to the famous book, written by Douglas Adams: “The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.”

You can imagine the excitement I had when I received a press release about Air New Zealand using Google technology that translates in real-time for staff trying to help customers that speak different languages.

Wearing Google’s wireless Bluetooth Pixel Buds headphones and using a Pixel handset staff can receive live translation of 40 languages.

This is another example of the supersonic pace of technology advancement. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was only written in the 1970s and although real-time translation of all the languages in the universe is still science fiction the babel fish concept is being developed. Imagine where we might be in another 30 years.

Well here is a prediction for just nine years from now. Before Christmas I met up with Chetan Dube, a prominent computer scientist specialising in artificial intelligence .

I asked him about robots and how human they can become. “I don’t think you will be able to distinguish between a human and an android in the next nine years,” he told me.

“Robots no longer have the Michael Jackson moves, they are becoming fairly smooth. They could now easily walk through a crowded mall and avoid people,” he added.  “They can take escalators, climb down stairs and they can run fast than humans.”

So the dexterity and mechanical motion is getting there and within five years, at the current rate of technological advancement, robots will move just like humans

But Dube said the big component missing is obviously the brain. He said companies like his IPSoft are working on this. “When you can implant the brain into the android it will be able to walk and talk and have conversations with people.”

“The boundary between carbon based organisms and silicon based organisms will progressively get diffused.”

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