I arrived at W4A in Beijing this morning and one of the first people I bumped into was Charles Chen over at Google. Charles is the guy behind FireVox, the screen reader extension for FireFox, and has been busy working on a solution to incorporate translation into Google instant messaging in a way that makes it screen reader accessible and therefore spoken out loud. Pretty impressive.
The bot is essentially your regular Google instant messaging box but with translation support added so you can have text translated on the fly. The bot works using ARIA and the AxsJAX library together with Google Translate.
To start using this all you need to do is add a translation bot as a friend and chat as normal. When you send text the bot will echo it as well as translate it simultaneously. The ARIA support then allows the translated text to be read out loud by screen readers.
There are roughly 25 languages supported distinguished by their own two letter identifier in an email address. If you want to try it in Chinese, just add firstname.lastname@example.org as a friend in Google Talk and send it a message to translate from English to Chinese. If you want to chat with someone you then just add them to the conversation and away you go.
Update: I love technology, especially when you hear about something new and it’s immediately put to good use but perhaps not the one that was initially anticipated. A lot of people are struggling with the language barrier here so are taking advantage of the WiFi and are communicating with people in the hotel using Google Translate.