Until fairly recently. If you put the phrase out of sight, out of mind into a translation app, took it to Russian and brought it back to English again, you’d get back invisible idiot. Yes, translation apps are not perfect yet and don’t fully understand the nuances of idioms and figurative language.

But hey, they weigh better than they used to be. So come with me on this Throw Forward Thursday episode to the near future where translation apps are able to translate from any language to any language and have been integrated into the world around us.

We already have translation apps available to us. You can take Google Translate app and you can take a menu at a foreign restaurant and you can look at it through the app and it will magically translate into the language of your choice. And now you can order food. Understanding and knowing what it is you’re actually ordering very useful when you’re travelling internationally, but it hasn’t been integrated. What we really need is to be able to hop into a taxi in a foreign city, put in our earphones and have a conversation with the taxi driver.

She can speak whatever language she wants to, you can speak whatever language you want to, and both of you are getting instant perfect translation happening. Of course, we want this for business purposes and international diplomacy negotiations. This will change the way that we live and work in an international environment and with our global colleagues. If we work in an environment that crosses language barriers, pretty much all of us do all of the time. We’ll probably go further and integrate some of their translation into augmented reality glasses.

Apple and Google and other companies have already announced that they are working on this type of augmented reality. Not these big clunky headsets or that very nerdy Google Glass from a few years ago, but integration of a data layer in something that looks like normal glasses and including a translation app in that so that when you look at a street sign or you are reading a document, you can have the translation happened instantly through your glasses makes perfect sense. We know this is coming, we know that the integration will happen and we know that all of us will find it tremendously useful and extremely valuable and therefore we’ll probably be prepared to pay for it. It’s a great business opportunity for the companies that get it right.

First, Throw Forward Thursday this week looks at a future where language is no longer a barrier and where communication and connection across different languages and cultures becomes a lot easier and more interesting.

What a wonderful future I think that will be.

Thank you for joining me, as always in the Throw Forward Thursday studio.

I’ll see you next week for another look at the future and what we can do about it today.


Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.

For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.

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