Monday, December 12, 2011

There is no Great Stagnation: 3D Printing Technology, Voice Recognition and Machine Translation

Well, one more WTF moment, courtesy of the l10n industry. Check this out:

InterPrint to revolutionise language industry
At LangCon, the language industry’s annual trade fair held in Los Angeles last week, Mattel, 3D PrintSystems and TripleDutch Translations announced that they have joined forces to develop the greatest innovation the language industry has seen in more than a decade: the 3D printable interpreter.
Interpreting is said to be one of the oldest professions in the world: from prehistoric tribes, to the conquistadores, to the Nazi trials in Nurnberg, interpreters have played a crucial role in many of humanity’s defining moments. Nowadays, you are likely to find interpreters in blue-chip boardrooms or the innards of the European institutions. However, their exclusive status comes at a cost: hiring a team of interpreters will easily set you back $1,000 a day.
InterPrint is now set to revolutionise this industry: by combining cutting-edge 3D printing technology and the latest speech recognition and machine translation software, clients and agencies alike are able to churn out interpreters fit for any meeting, and a shoe box! Modelled after the classical Ken and Barbie dolls, the ‘his and hers’ pint-sized linguists only measure about 23 cm in length, yet offer the same services an ordinary team of interpreters, and more!

Cutting interpreters down to size
“Using our printed interpreters provides real benefits to our customers”, says Kees Dooms, CEO of Amsterdam-based TripleDutch. “Their smaller size means that you can fit them into smaller meeting rooms. You can also save on transport costs: the secretary of the meeting can carry the interpreters to the venue in her bag.” Another advantage is that you can store the interpreters in the meeting room overnight, instead of having to put them up in the fancy 5 star hotels many of their human-sized counterparts demand. “The catering costs are also eliminated, as our dolls have no digestive system”, confirms Kees. “And the fact that other parts of their anatomy are also missing might help to improve the philandering image of the profession”, he adds jokingly.

Unique opportunity
“At Mattel, we have been wondering for years how to tap into the high-margin corporate market”, explains Paul Lewis, Business Development Manager at the US doll manufacturer. “We believe this product will be a real winner: one-off clients can order the language pair they want after which the dolls are shipped from InterPrint’s headquarters in Amsterdam”, adds Lewis, “at a fraction of the costs of an ordinary team of interpreters”. Customers regularly requiring interpretation can buy a special printer and cartridges from InterPrint to manufacture their own teams. Says Lewis: “No more scrambling for interpreters for a last-minute job: you can print your own set in under 3 hours.” True to form, Mattel offers various accessories to make your interpreters look as life-like as possible: for the male dolls we have smart, pin-striped suits with clashing woollen socks and for the female dolls pink pumps and leopard-skin mini-skirts and see-through tops.

3D printing: cutting-edge technology
3D PrintSystems, which provides the printing technology behind InterPrint is very excited about the opportunities: “3D printing has been around for a few years, but the industry is struggling to find a use outside of niche markets. Printing interpreters is just the creative solution this industry needs to gain momentum”, explains CEO Bob Winkler. “We are improving the design on a continuous basis, meaning that you will be able to use your dolls longer. The current models have a lifespan of about 2 days, which is sufficient for most clients’ needs. If you water your interpreters sufficiently frequently, you may extend their useful life to four days, although by the end, most of what they produce is just gibberish.” Winkler provides yet another advantage: “if your meeting is not going well, or if you’re not happy with the quality of the translation, you can now really go to town on your interpreters. For instance, you can throw them out of a speeding van, something you are not yet allowed to do to their human counterparts in most European countries.”

Note: This, of course, is just a light-hearted satirical piece that was sent to me by Belgian intepreter Toon Gevaert. He asked me to share it as a guest post and I agreed that it might give the readers of this blog a chuckle. Three-dimensional printing is already a reality, but, alas, the Ken and Barbie mini-terps are not. However, maybe this is the little spark that some entrepreneurial mind at a revolutionary company such as Lackuna needs to get the creative juices flowing.

Miguel Llorens is a freelance financial translator based in Madrid who works from Spanish into English. He is specialized in equity research, economics, accounting, and investment strategy. He has worked as a translator for Goldman Sachs, the US Government's Open Source Center, and H.B.O. International. To contact him, visit his website and write to the address listed there. You can also join his LinkedIn network by visiting the profile or follow him on Twitter.

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