Machine Translation (MT) on Smartphone

Quite a few companies have released Machine Translation (MT) software for various smartphones and tablets in order to provide on-demand translation service.  In some instances you can take a photo on your phone and send it to a server where it will provide you the translation in your desired language.  In other instances the MT software can instantaneously translate full sentences for you.  While these are definitely technical breakthroughs, I’m not sure whether many practical applications exist for MT software on your smartphone.

Can you imagine if you’re in a meeting and your company speaks only Chinese or French?  In order to have a meaningful conversation, are you going to first speak into your smartphone and then point it in the direction of your company so they can listen to the translation of your sentence?

Or better yet, if you’re on a conference call with a potential client or a business partner, are you first going to speak into your smartphone and then point it towards your land line phone so you could have a meaningful conference call?

Bottom line is that MT has limitations in its practical applications.  MT will never be good enough to completely replace the human translator or the human interpreter.