From The Guardian

“The idea of artificial speech translation has been around for a long time. Waibel, who is also a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, “sort of invented it. I proposed it at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] in 1978.” Douglas Adams sort of invented it around the same time too. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxyfeatured a life form called the Babel fish which, when placed in the ear, enabled a listener to understand any language in the universe. It came to represent one of those devices that technology enthusiasts dream of long before they become practically realisable, like portable voice communicators and TVs flat enough to hang on walls: a thing that ought to exist, and so one day surely will.”

“The systems currently available offer proof of the concept, but at this stage they seem to be regarded as eye-catching novelties rather than steps towards what Waibel calls “making a language-transparent society”.”