Buried deep below the ground in Mountain View, California, lies a top secret bunker where Google is designing the future of destination marketing. Inside, scientists in white lab coats move purposefully and speak in hushed tones as they work on revolutionary products like balloon-based WiFi, self-driving cars, and artificial brains. The latest creation that has bubbled to the surface is a mobile, voice translation app that will allow travelers to seamlessly communicate in any language. This Google X Lab moonshot could make travel easier for the world’s 1.8 billion English speakers, 1.4 billion Mandarin speakers, 500 million Spanish speakers, and every other language speaker.
Currently, Google Translate does a fairly decent job of translating text into 71 different languages. It has certainly made it infinitely easier for my wife and me to function here in Germany. However, when the writing becomes more technical, more ‘technical difficulties’ develop in the software’s ability to provide an accurate translation. I can only imagine the challenges of trying to accurately translate languages that are not of a European origin.
Google’s X lab project to try to make communication easier around the world should be a welcome development for destination marketing professionals who are looking to take a bite out of the growing international travel market. However, until this moonshot produces a product that can correctly translate your speech in a real time environment, having a solid grasp of the world’s lingua franca, English, will continue to be essential. Although, it wouldn’t hurt if native English speakers learned an additional language too.