Though it’s not as often as we’d like, we do occasionally get the opportunity to travel out of the country and practice our foreign language skills and past experiences tell us that whipping out a dictionary to do a translation is not always practical nor a good way to look cool. Enter Cellictica’s Trippo VoiceMagix, an iPhone app that offers speech-to-speech translation on the fly, taking your spoken or typed words and putting them back out in the selected language in writing or aloud through the iPhone’s speaker.
In terms of functionality, the app supports 27 languages: Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Pashto, Romanian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Serbian, Thai, and Urdu.
Out of these 27 languages, spoken translation output is available in just under half: Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Thai.
The actual translation is handled remotely so you must have an internet connection for the app to work, so keep this mind if you use it outside of your “home” calling area as you will incur some roaming data charges using it.
Trippo VoiceMagix uses the same voice recognition technology, powered by Nuance Communications, as the Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search apps. Overall, we found the app’s speech recognition to be pretty good, catching most of what we threw at it accurately.
The app’s interface is fairly straightforward. First, you choose the languages to translate from and to and then you enter text manually through the virtual keyboard or you speak it if speech is supported for that language.
If you enter text manually, pressing the Translate button will generate the translation. If you speak the words to be translated, the translation will automatically be prompted once you’ve finished. You’ll see a “Translating…” dialogue as the translation is fetched and it will be shown once it’s been received.
In terms of the app’s interface, we found a few rough edges. The text entry box is missing a button to delete the previous entry in its entirety – you must hold down the virtual keyboard’s backspace button to delete letter by letter. The Listen button is labeled a little misleadingly in our view – it simply plays the audio of the translation output and will repeat it as well. We think this button should be labeled with a speaker icon or change contextually to “Repeat” as needed.
The app has a shortcut button that will create a new email with the translated text in the body, so you could feasibly draft a fairly long message and use it to communicate in another language with someone else by email. The app will also accept copied and pasted text, making it very useful as a general written translation app to translate text received in an email or found on the web.
While we lacked the language skills to test all of the languages the app supports, we could test its ability to translate between English and French. We found that it worked well for basic phrases one would need while traveling, such as asking for directions, prices, etc. Where it didn’t work so well was when we tried some idiomatic expressions. For example, saying “We need to get going” in English put out something completely incorrect in French. We found the same thing happened translating written French to English.
English, with all its inconsistencies, is a tough language to translate and we wouldn’t expect just any old app to be able to do it well. However, Trippo VoiceMagix costs $24.99 (it’s currently on sale for $1.99) and this high price tag raises our expectations quite a bit. For $24.99 we’d expect very good translations all around, idioms notwithstanding, and Trippo VoiceMagix is too expensive at its regular price of $24.99 considering this. With that said, we are generally impressed to see this kind of spoken translation done well enough on a mobile platform and feel this will be very handy tool for travelers as long as they keep in mind the app’s limitations.