In Europe, simultaneous translations are a ubiquitous part of conferences and events. Even though a speaker may be speaking Spanish, all you need to do is put on a set of headphones, tune into your native language’s channel, and let the interpreter sitting in the booth at the back of the room take care of the rest. But behind this seemingly straightforward system is an entire ecosystem of specialised equipment based on radio infrared technologies. These complex systems must be rented and installed for each and every event – a process that is both expensive and labour intense. Through the EU-funded ST WI-FI project, Italian interpreting services company Ablio set out to streamline the technology behind simultaneous translations. The result is Ablioconference, an innovative simultaneous translation service that uses only a standard laptop and smartphones. “Gone are the days of renting and installing expensive dedicated systems, and coordinating the distribution and collection of headsets,” says Mr Giulio Monaco, ST WI-FI project coordinator. “Instead, conference organisers now have a hugely simplified, cost-effective way to provide attendees with quality, simultaneous translations.” A simplified solution As a software application, with Ablioconference organisers do not need to rent and install traditional infrared proprietary systems (control unit, IR receiver headset, interpreter console, IR audio signal, recharging unit, IR radiant panels). Instead, the entire translation service flow can be set up and run from a personal laptop computer, with the audio translations delivered directly to the audience via their own mobile devices. The key to the system is its patented, dedicated wi-fi network, which can provide coverage to an audience of thousands using only a single wireless router. Set up and controlled within the Ablioconference application, the wi-fi coverage works like a television station in that it distributes just one audio stream to all participants (as opposed to a separate audio stream to each individual). “We essentially created something that has never been done before in any field: a solution that enables complete management and optimisation of the required wireless networks,” explains Monaco. “In doing so, we give event organisers full control over all the system’s functions, regardless of the type, location or size of the event.” Although interpreters can still work on-site, Ablioconference also gives them the option to connect remotely. This feature not only expands the pool of available interpreters, it also helps organisers cut travel costs. Furthermore, the system can be used in parallel with most major video conferencing platforms. Disrupting an industry According to Monaco, Ablioconference has disrupted the entire event industry by providing a reliable interpretation service at a fraction of the cost. In fact, with Ablioconference, some events have cut their interpretation budget by up to 90 %. “The costs and complexities associated with providing multilingual services have long been a prohibitive factor,” says Monaco. “By removing these factors, Ablioconference has positioned itself as a valuable tool for overcoming language barriers and facilitating integration, communication and knowledge sharing within different cultural, social, commercial and political contexts.” The system is freely available to test online. As Ablio prepares Ablioconference for the market, researchers are busy finetuning its features and implementing an international network of resellers.
ST WI-FI, Ablio, Ablioconference, simultaneous translations, wireless networks, interpreters