Asia Business Channel

China’s Baidu and Ctrip Launch an AI Pocket Translator for Tourists

Chinese internet giant, Baidu along with the online travel agency Ctrip have launched a new pocket translator for tourists. The device is the size of a small smartphone and users talk into the translator, which then translates into the desired language almost simultaneously using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The translator contains an embedded SIM card that is connected to the internet and will work in more than 80 countries and regions around the globe. The first translation devices will support Chinese-English translation and other languages will be added in the future.

According to recent statistics from China’s National Tourism Administration, Chinese travelers made 62+ million outbound trips in the first half of 2017, up 5.1% year-on-year. First time travelers will normally opt for “tour groups” to different countries because they can travel with multi-lingua tour guides. As travelers become experienced, they prefer to make their own plans to visit countries and create their own itineraries based upon personal preferences.

However, language remains a barrier to open travel and our providers, such as Ctrip, believe that the availability and use of the new portable translation devices will encourage an increasing number of middle-aged and elderly people to travel abroad.

Ctrip and Baidu have already launched a translation app earlier this year that allows tourists to use a phone camera to translate English text into Chinese, but the new device will be more user friendly and natural since it is more efficient for people to speak to other people.

Some of the biggest problems in translation systems have been related to accents and slang but the new AI systems have the potential to overcome these problems through deep-learning and natural-learning algorithms that are built into the systems so that the translation “brains” become smarter with more usage.

Baidu is also rumored to be working with other companies to create devices with more specific language skills that relate to academia, healthcare, medicine, science and technology, so the launch of the translation device with Ctrip is seen by analysts as Baidu’s initial efforts to begin to commercialize AI in a consumer setting.
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