Life imitating Star Trek

How many people amongst us remember the crew of the USS Enterprise D running into an alien ship, – Up the ship’s captain comes in the viewscreen, and the message goes out – “¬†DaHjaj ‘oH QaQ jaj Da¬†”. The magical universal translator would kick in and convert it to ” Today is a good day to die” and the Klingon warbird would blow the Enterprise and its wimpy captain Jean Luc Picard to smithereens… Ok, Ok so i escaped into a bit of fantasy there – the destruction of the Enterprise D that is.. The first part though fantasy no more…

Thanks to Cisco and its Telepresence¬†products videoconfrencing has become an absolute reality. Crystal clear picture and call quality and screen sizes actually belay the fact that parties may be on seperate sides of the world. The newest feature that Cisco is working on right now for telepresence is icing on the cake though,as Cisco¬†will add real-time translation to its TelePresence high-definition conference technology next year, enabling people in several different countries to meet virtually and each hear the other participants’ comments in their own languages.

The service which would be rolled out in the second half of 2009, would be initially available in 20 languages, across a spectrum of continents and languages including Asia, European and Western languages.

Cisco is also planning to bring Telepresence to the consumer masses around the same time, making video-calling an ubiquitous reality Рthis was something that was hoped to have been achieved by 3G services worldwide, but video-calling never really caught on.

The translation system will be able to scale beyond two-way meetings, according to Cisco. In a press confrence demonstration on 10th of December Cisco executives gave the example of a TelePresence session among participants from four countries, speaking in four different languages. Each would be able to hear and read everyone’s words in his or her own language, they said.

Around the same time that the translation system becomes available, Cisco will offer a transcription feature  to perform speech-to-text conversion of video content. This will create a searchable word-for-word transcript and allow users to go directly to the spot in a video they want to see.