Universal Translators in Virtual Worlds and Social VR Spaces

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Image by Tumisu on Pixabay

你好! What language has the most irregular verbs?

I’ll answer that at the end of this blogpost, but first I wanted to talk a bit about languages and virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds such as Second Life attract people from all around the world, who might not speak the same language as each other. (The Second Life website itself is available in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish and Russian.) Automatic translator software (such as this popular item on the SL Marketplace, which works with Google Translate) is often used to bridge the language gap between users chatting in Second Life.

But text chat is not used as often as voice chat in the newer social VR spaces such as Sansar and High Fidelity. Waverly Labs has already created an earpiece called the Pilot, which fits inside your ear to translate foreign languages in real-time, much like the babel fish in Douglas Adams’ science fiction novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In my opinion, it’s really only a matter of time until this sort of technology makes it into social VR platforms.

(A related challenge is to provide voice-to-text conversion so that, for instance, a deaf person can participate in social VR discussions. Thankfully, this is already commonly available using software such as the Dragon line of products. It just needs to be integrated with the various client software used to navigate the newer metaverse products.)

Seamless communication between people of all languages may be coming sooner than you think! 再见!


And now the answer to the question I posted at the start of this blogpost: according to this discussion thread on the WordReference forums, the language with the highest number of irregular verbs is Latin—or perhaps Portuguese.

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