As I look at various technologies I try to rank them on how disruptive they will be to education. I’ll probably do a top 5 list sometime soon but on that list is voice recognition and translation. Many people I know don’t think much of this and in a lot of contexts it won’t be disruptive. However, in any situation where you need to communicate information primarily by spoken word, it will be huge because it will allow people from all over the world to interact.
The Internet will become our modern day Tower of Babel. Once we can all talk to each other in any language that changes the world.
First, check out this video. The part that I would like to draw your attention to starts at about 7:30 so you can jump to that.
The video is by Microsoft Research and discusses their efforts to improve voice recognition and translation. It’s very impressive. You notice the Chinese voice happens after a short pause. That is just a function of computing power. This is increasing in an exponential fashion so that pause will rapidly disappear in a few years.
Let me lay out the education implications once the language barrier falls.
- This could be used in a classroom if students are equipped with smartphones to do the translation of the teacher.
- Where this will be massively disruptive is for online education. A teacher will be able to have students from around the world. It will be quite challenging to keep all the cultures straight.
- It works both ways though. Students in the US can take classes from anyone in the world now. I am sure there are some very smart teachers in other countries who would be able to offer low cost training online. This will undercut the US teacher market as it has in so many other markets.
- Translation like this will allow cultural products to flow around the world. Did you notice how the Chinese voice actually sounded a bit like the presenter? Imagine that being done with movies and TV shows. That is a vast amount of new content that will be available for education use.
The language barrier is the last real barrier to the globalization of education. Get ready for this very big cloud in the oncoming Stormfront of change!