VoxOx, which fancies itself as an alternative to Skype and Google Voice by letting users make phone calls via the Web, has integrated a language translation capability directly into its service.
VoxOx gives users a dedicated number and lets them make calls from PC to PC, as well as from PCs to landlines and mobile phones. The Web application, available for Windows and Mac computers, also enables video, instant messaging and two-way text messaging, file sharing, and social networking through one “universal messaging window.”
VoxOx’s new Universal Translator, a sort of Babel fish baked directly into the platform, provides foreign language messaging translation for text messages, instant messaging, e-mail, and messaging via Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. The service currently supports dozens of languages.
VoxOx users need only open up their VoxOx universal messaging window, pick their language and the language of each person they wish to communicate with, and send text messages, chats or e-mails to any user, whether they use VoxOx or not.
The neat trick here is that only one person need be using VoxOx to have a conversation that is translated between two parties, making it a boon for efficiency. Consumers requiring two-way translation usually must download client-to-client translation applications.
For example, Curtis Kaffer, director of software development for TelCentris, showed eWEEK a demo in which messages in the Spanish language were sent from Facebook Chat to his VoxOx instant messaging client, which translated the chat session into English. See a demo of this here.
The service works with Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live, AIM, ICQ, Skype and GoogleTalk. VoxOx users can also translate two-way chat with social networking friends on Facebook and MySpace and broadcast Twitter @replies, or public messages directed to specific users. Settings can be customized per contact and stored in the cloud for future conversations.
VoxOx may be the first service of its kind to feature native translation in its text-based communications tools, but other companies that are more powerful are working hard at solving machine translation challenges.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 16 showed off translation capabilities in the company’s Google Goggles visual search technology.
This would enable users to take pictures of objects and apply Google Translate capabilities to the results. Google is using optical character recognition to convert the images of letters into words it can understand, and then run them through Google Ttranslate.
This would be a boon for tourists visiting foreign countries who want to snap a picture of a monument plaque and get the words translated into their native language.
VoxOx Universal Translator isn’t addressing this market segment yet. Its target users are likely business workers from multiple countries who need to communicate via instant messaging or text messaging. VoxOx also envisions consumers using VoxOx to communicate with foreign customer service representatives.
Such translation capabilities should help VoxOx pick up a number of users, which is important for a product competing with Skype, Google Voice-which will likely offer Web calling this year (through Gizmo5 assets)-and other VOIP solutions such as BT’s Ribbit.
VoxOx is still in beta and still free. Last month, the company added remote access management functionality to its personal assistant feature.