VoxOx Debuts Translator-in-the-Cloud for Instant Messaging, E-mails, Texting, Social Media

2/16/10Follow @bvbigelow

Today San Diego-based TelCentris is announcing at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it has incorporated a new free offering—a “universal translator”—as part of VoxOx, its free, cloud-based, unified communications service.

Some online services, such as Babelfish.com, currently enable users to copy and paste in foreign language text to get a translation. But TelCentris says its VoxOx Universal Translator is the first translation service built into messaging and VoIP messaging software—making VoxOx the first to provide an instantaneous foreign language service that automatically translates e-mail, text messaging, Internet chat, and certain social networking messages.

VoxOx client

VoxOx client

It’s a cool feature, kind of Star Trek-y, and the announcement is tailor-made for the wireless industry’s biggest international conference, which just happens to be held this week in a big international city. TelCentris spokesman Erik Bratt tells me the VoxOx Universal Translator is an ideal application for companies that do a lot of international business. The company’s cloud-based translation software currently supports 50 languages for instant messaging, e-mail, and social media; it also supports 37 of those languages for text messaging.

In a statement issued by the company, TelCentris president Michael Faught says the translator “breaks down language barriers and has important business implications as well—for example, providing better customer support, or communicating with colleagues, partners and business contacts in another country and another language.”

TelCentris CTO Kevin Hertz showed me how it worked, but it was a demonstration of simple phrases like “how are you?” and I didn’t get a good idea of how accurately the translation program works with more complicated messages.

Windows Messenger

Windows Messenger

The only question is whether the little San Diego startup can make itself heard above the clamor of much bigger companies making much bigger announcements. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made news yesterday, for example, when he unveiled the software giant’s new Windows Mobile 7 operating system. The world’s largest mobile operators also grabbed headlines by announcing they have joined forces to create a wholesale applications community and will develop a common open standard for a unified platform for mobile apps—so that mobile apps can run on just about any mobile handset.

Privately held TelCentris also faces some major competitors, such as Google Voice and Skpe. Just last week, Google announced it’s working on a sophisticated language translation service for mobile phones that will build on existing technologies in voice recognition and automatic translation.

Bratt, who recently joined Telcentris as vice president of corporate communications, tells me the concept of a universal translator was popularized by Star Trek, perhaps as a way of explaining how the aliens always spoke English when they appeared on the spaceship’s big-screen TV screen.

Unlike Star Trek, however, the VoxOx Universal Translator does not translate voice calls. Translating a voice call would require transcribing speech in a way that understands slang, accents, slurred speech, and so forth, Bratt explains. “No one has really been able to do it [in] a seamless way,” Bratt says. “In the future, if it gets more viable, we may take a look at it.”

Bratt tells me the company has not spent any marketing dollars to promote its Voice-over-Internet Protocol services, relying instead on media announcements since VoxOx made its debut in 2008. The technology integrates different types of communications into a single, iPhone-like graphical user interface. Telcentris derived the name for its VoxOx business from “voice over X,” meaning its cloud-based software can send a voice call over any number of networks to a user’s computer or phone. Like Skype, VoxOx provides users a free phone number and allows free calls to other VoxOx users.

The VoxOx technology also enables users to combine a variety of their existing communications technologies onto a single platform, with a single computer screen that displays icons for their voice, video, instant messaging, text, e-mail, fax, and certain social networks, and the company continues to add compelling features. Last June, the company added a feature that makes it easier to place low-cost calls overseas. And in July, VoxOx added a virtual personal assistant—a service that can answer your phone calls, take a message, record a conversation, or route calls to your computer, cell phone, office phone, or any other destination you have listed.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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