You know we are still quite a ways from that fully functioning universal translator when even Microsoft admits that using Skype Translator will result in a “clear negative impact” on conversation. And yet they keep coming, these gadgets and apps that are said to provide simultaneous interpretation or so-called real-time translation.

There was some hype in 2009 surrounding the US Military’s use of something akin to Captain Kirk’s universal translator. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote about it, so did PC World. Called the Phraselator, the handheld device let you pick a phrase from a menu and it would play the pre-recorded version in, say, Arabic; or speak into the device and a matching phrase would play. Hardly universal nor real-time when phrases are limited to a pre-recorded menu.

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