Surreal ‘Universal Translator’ by a Dutch startup offers an almost Star Trek-like experience



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It sounds almost surreal: a Universal Translator, just like in Star Trek. A device that almost simultaneously translates spoken words. The Rotterdam startup Travis developed such translation device that can translate from and to 80 different languages. The pocket-size device translates spoken language within a time slot of less than 2 seconds. It can be used while traveling, but also to understand meetings or conferences that are held in a foreign language. Travis was selected by startup accelerator Startup Delta to present the device this week on the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Powered by artificial intelligence

Everyone who travels a lot, knows how frustrating it can be to not understand a foreign language. Talking with hands and feet, or a desperate attempt on Google Translate are not very satisfying if you want to discuss complex matters. Travis is to solve those communication problems. The device is powered by artificial intelligence, the most advanced technology for translating there is nowadays. Although Travis was initially developed as a device for travelers, the startup soon received requests from lawyers, and people in the business world. Obviously, translation is useful in many different sectors.


How does Travis work?

The Travis is a pocket size device that you can just put on the table between you and the person or persons you are talking with. If they are speaking in one of the eighty languages that Travis understands, the device will translate the words directly into your language. The device may eventually replace human interpreters or inaccurate translation machines, although it will need some improvements. CEO Lennart van der Ziel: “at the moment, the device is not 100% flawless yet. For example, translating gets harder when the speaker does not speak clear enough, or when he uses a lot of slang”.

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A universal translator: is it real?

It sounds almost surreal: a universal translator, just like in Star Trek. A device that almost simultaneously translates spoken words. Even though the Dutch startup already has offices in the Netherlands, the US, and China, they will only now present the Travis for the first time at the MWC. We did not yet test the device ourselves, so we cannot judge. But if Travis really is what it claims to be, we wonder why the Travis-crew went off to Barcelona for a demo, instead of taking their treasure to Silicon Valley right away!

Want to get a Travis yourself? The presale starts within several weeks. A limited edition will be available for $99,- instead of the regular price of $199! Keep an eye on the Travis website.


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Laura Vrijsen

Discourse and argumentation studies graduate who loves to meditate. Reporter at Silicon Canals.

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