Maybe Apple’s boat has sailed. Maybe it’s still docked. What that means is this. Technology opportunities seem to be created elsewhere, outside of One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA. Here’s a good example. Microsoft owns Skype. Of course, Skype will never give Microsoft a return on its investment money, but what does? However, Microsoft has bolted onto Skype a realtime voice translation for phone calls.
Talk To Me, Mi Amor
Realtime voice translations for phone calls? For that, I have two questions. The first, ‘How cool is that?‘ The second, ‘What could go wrong?‘ I’m not saying Apple should have something similar built into iPhone, or Apple should do something just as cool with Siri, but what I am saying is this; ‘Apple works on such things to become products or to be integrated into products, while Microsoft, Google et al, seem to do such things to show off.’
Honestly, Skype Translator seems like a seriously cool product and I wish something like that would show up in iOS 10.2 (which arrived Monday; and it did not).
Break down language barriers with your friends, family and colleagues.
Our online translator can help you communicate in 8 languages for voice calls, and in more than 50 languages while instant messaging.
Skype Translator uses machine learning. So the more you use it, the better it gets. We thank you for your patience as the technology graduates from Preview mode.
In other words, beta version. But still. Oh, and what could go wrong?
The technology sounds cool, and will get used– until we insult someone on the other side of the phone because the translation was not perfect. And most quick translations– even from experienced translators, are not.
Adobe has had something similar going on for years with Photoshop. Is it real? Or, is it Photoshop? Well, something new has arrived with Adobe Voco. Think of it as Photoshop for your voice. Basically, Voco studies a recorded audio voice, then can read text and speak the text as if using the recorded voice.
What could go wrong?
The benefits of such a system are clear to see. Apart from inevitably heralding a new age of comedy (our public figures are really going to hate this software which is going to turn everyone into a skilled impressionist). Common workflow tasks such as last minute changes which might previously have necessitated a call back for a voice artist will now be simple to fix in software. I’m not sure what this might mean for the incomes of voice artists but I’d be surprised if they came out of this as winners. Legal and profanity issues will be easily fixed before broadcast but even the most casual observer will be aware that in the same way as Photoshop has made it impossible to take a still image as proof of anything and many people are now wary of images posted online as potential fakes, as technology makes audio manipulation which was previously difficult and often impossible potentially routine, it inevitably will have an effect on our perception of evidence and therefore of truth.
Already Photoshop is used to alter reality and perpetuate fake news. Movie stars don’t look like their Photoshopped selves. Websites which look and feel like broadcast, newspaper, or standard media websites can fool people into believing what should obviously be fake news, too.
And now there’s an application which can listen to a recorded voice, and then say absolutely anything in that person’s voice; either through media or over the phone? Is there anybody besides me that sees a problem with how this is all playing out?
Alright, where is Apple in all this? The company’s iPhone 7 Plus is the best iPhone ever, arguably the best smartphone ever. Name a tablet that does more than iPad Pro? Argue about how non-pro the new MacBook Pros are but name another premium branded notebook that does more. Amazon’s Echo and Alexa are big hits after a few million sales (presumably, Amazon never says), but Apple Watch after 15-million or 20-million sales– and considered the best smartwatch in the industry– is a flop.
My head is spinning. What’s good is bad. What’s bad is good. And ships manned by also ran technology companies are sailing off to new technology frontiers while Apple does what?
Besides make money?