BABELVERSE: Validating the concept

TEDxAcademy Women – 8th Dec 2010

Niki Siropoulou organiser of TEDxAcademy offered us the opportunity to try out Babelverse in a real-world situation (thanks Niki!) We interpreted the live video feed between Athens and the main TED event in Washington featuring Hillary Clinton, as well as a selection of other talks between Greek and English.

When we announced this on Twitter, we had people out there also wanting to volunteer to interpret the talks in other language pairs, the response was amazing, people were really answering the call!

Then – a stroke of luck – one of the speakers was running late, Niki immediately offered us the stage to present Babelverse, we had no presentation prepared and were in the middle of a trial run, but of course we took the opportunity to talk about Babelverse.

1st trial - TEDx - dec 2010

Open Fund

During this time, we were doing a lot of planning, mock-ups and business-plan writing, spending many late nights running on Freddo Cappucinos, in preparation to present our project to the Open Fund board, soon after which they offered to invest. We also talked with several other early-stage investors in Europe during that time, with a few of them showing a keen interest.

Startegy 2 – 29th Jan 2011

We were then invited by Startegy organiser Vicki Kovolou to come back and share our experience and progress since the 1st Startegy event, to encourage and inspire others starting out on their ventures.

Our FIRST TV interview on Greek national TV

The subtitles say Bubble and not Babel?!?!?!?! 🙂

Turning down funding and our decision to bootstrap

Taking outside money should not be taken lightly. Our project was very early-stage and we felt that we had spent a lot of time focusing on this. We talked in depth with the Greek fund, yet had not progressed our project as swiftly as we would have liked. Our attention had been taken away from it, we wanted to develop Babelverse further and then think about funding if and when we absolutely needed it.

So we decided to turn down the funding amicably and bootstrap. So… bootstrap we did. Fortunately for us, very soon after this something was about to come up which would change Babelverse for the better! (more on that in later posts.)

In the meantime we recieved some  media coverage, by the leading Greek tech blog away.grΓνωρίστε το Babelverse, το Translation μόλις έγινε 2.0“ (ENG: “Meet Babelverse, Translation 2.0 has arrived”)

We worked on building a comprehensive database of spoken languages

We also had did a test run of Babelverse during an OpenCoffee event in Athens.

Mayel de Borniol and Josef Dunne in Greece

External validation

In May, Japan’s giant telecom company NTT DoCoMo announced that it was working on the prototype of a simultaneous speech translation app, but powered by speech recognition, machine translation and text-to-speech. Babelverse was no longer the only real-time voice translation app (except ours is powered by people!).

In January, Google had also launched the experimental “conversation mode” feature on Google Translate for Android, for automated voice translation between Spanish and English.

Google announced in May that it would shut down the Google Translate API, due to its massive popularity. They will reportedly be relaunching it with a paid model, demonstrating at the same time the great demand for translation, and it’s business potential.

During that time, we also attended the 1st European translators & interpreters conference in Rome, organised by ProZ, and had the chance to talk with many seasoned people in the industry. It was encouraging to hear what they thought of the challenges facing them (like low-quality automated translation) and their feedback and excitement about Babelverse…

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