Google's translation app will soon turn speech into text on the fly

Converting unfamiliar speech to text in Google Translate is currently an awkward affair: you have to start a recording and wait until a moment after you're done to find out what the other person said. That's not exactly living up to the dream of a Star Trek-like universal translator, folks. However, the New York Times understands that Translate is about to get considerably smarter. Reportedly, an updated version of the mobile app (coming "soon") will automatically detect speech and translate it right away. All you'd really have to do is hold your phone up with the app running -- important if you'd rather not go through a song-and-dance routine just to find out where the washrooms are.

Skype already manages a similar feat on Windows 8.1, and Japan's DoCoMo showed this off on phones a while back. The concept isn't entirely new, then. With that said, Google's approach may be more helpful for your tourist expeditions simply because it combines extensive cloud translation technology with an easy-to-find mobile app. And no, the automatic interpretation shouldn't pose a security risk. Google splits conversations into separate files, so spies and thieves can't easily figure out who said what.