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Google just added an Interpreter feature to its mobile Assistant AI that aims to help travelers get the most out of their global adventures. The Interpreter Mode has been available on Google Home smart speakers for a little while now, but bringing it to mobile platforms opens up a world of potential for usage while exploring a foreign country.

Using the Assistant’s Interpreter Mode, you can carry out conversations in 44 different languages. You don’t even need to download a special app to use the Interpreter, it is now built into your Google Assistant. If you don’t have Google Assistant yet, you can download it from the App Store or the Google Play Store.

How Does Interpreter Mode Work?

Using interpreter mode isn’t too different from having a conversation mediated by a live, human interpreter. You trigger Interpreter mode by saying “Hey Google, be my Spanish translator” or “Hey Google, help me speak Mandarin.”

Once it’s activated, you can carry on a conversation with people who don’t speak your language; the Assistant will record what you say, translate it then speak it aloud. Sometimes, the Assistant will generate Smart Replies to simple questions that you can select to keep things moving. This makes common travel issues — like finding the best restaurant in town, negotiating prices and getting directions — a whole lot easier.

For times when it might be impolite to hear your thoughts voiced by a robot, Interpreter Mode also has a typing option.

How Accurate is Google’s Interpreter?

Prior to the official release, Interpreter Mode was piloted at three hotels in New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco. During their respective demos, the Assistants did a decent job at translation, but they were criticized for the conversational lag and the occasional confusing mistakes that tripped up the flow of conversation.

This demo took place about a year ago, so let’s hope Google took those shortcomings in stride and made the proper adjustments. Like any other AI entity, the Assistant interpreter cannot solve every problem — in some ways, it is learning the language alongside you. As a courtesy to the people you encounter in your travel destination, it’s never a bad idea to learn a few basic terms in their native tongue.

All said, this could prove to be a remarkably useful concept that enhances the lives of travelers (and the patience of locals) worldwide.

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