Robotics has come on in leaps and bounds. The production costs have been reduced to a point where humanoid androids, once the preserve of science fiction writers, could become a regular feature in certain locations. For example, in preparation for the Japan 2020 Olympics, Toshiba has been creating androids for tourist information centres.
One android, called Junko Chihira, can speak three languages - but only with preset sayings. Most androids in operation can communicate only through preset messages, but they will soon be able to respond to questions and learn.
If these androids are programmed to speak a variety of languages are they going to be a permanent feature in the future?
Robots are in demand
The demand for robots is very real. But not always in humanoid form. Google has been a particularly keen proponent of this kind of robotic technology. As well as running a driverless car project, the company recently announced that it will use 'crabots' in its construction plans. These robot-crane hybrids are not too dissimilar from the construction industry's spider cranes and will play a pivotal role in building a new Mountain View HQ for the firm.
The global market for robotics is likely to be worth over $152bn by the end of the decade. As innovation continues in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), it is likely that translation will be one of the most immediately affected industries. The occupation of translator in particular is already being heralded as one of the top 10 jobs to be replaced by AI.
There is a market for multilingual androids
The first android actress made her debut in a film, although it must be added that the robot is playing an android and not a human. Though it is unlikely that casting agents will be turning to humanoid robots any time soon, the threshold has been crossed and it is a significant one.
The presence of helpful and informational robots will help to make the forthcoming Olympics more seamless. If they turn out to be particularly impressive, we could see their adoption in capital cities across the globe.
But androids will not replace actual translators
The subject of translators being replaced by technology has been well documented thanks to the rise of translation apps and translation machines.
Androids will become increasingly useful for retail and construction purposes, but for the foreseeable future they will not be able to replace professional human translation services.
As long as translators keep embracing translation machinery, such as translation memory, translation will be efficient and accurate.
In the case of androids that can speak a multitude of languages, they will be predominantly used in the tourism and leisure industries. Though they could replace the need for tourist information translators dealing with simple queries, they will not eradicate the need for complex translations.
This article was written by London Translations