When we talk about conference interpreting, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably a bunch of interpreters translating while looking through the glasses of their booths at the speaker in a conference room with a large audience. However, today I am going to discuss about a different scenario - remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI), which relies on internet, Wi-Fi and cloud computing technologies.Over the years, more and more cloud-based remote interpreting platforms have emerged in the market. These platforms have allowed interpreters to provide translation at their location instead of having to travel from destination to destination.But what exactly is RSI and how will it impact interpretation? Read on to discover more.
Typically, there are mainly two types of RSI and the key difference is the type of equipment involved. For example, any large international sports event would require RSI, which puts dozens of interpreters in one place while all the games are happening in various stadiums and venues. This kind of RSI, with interpreters still sitting inside booths with headsets on, allows centralized management of interpreters and reduction of supporting staff. To reduce the latency of transmission to a near real-time communication, satellite communication or dedicated lease lines are deployed.In other words, audience would not experience any delay of interpretation while watching the game.On the other hand, this solution could burn a big hole in the budget.Another type of RSI is what is normally called cloud-based remote interpreting (CRSI). Through cloud-based servers, interpreters use a software interface mimicking a traditional physical console (volume control, microphone on/off, relay button, etc.), in addition to a video feed and text chat box, to run on a laptop. By connecting the laptop through a network cable to the Internet, interpreters are able to see and hear the conference from a remote location and interpret at the same time. The interpretation will be sent through the cloud server to the audience, either by traditional Infrared or Radio Frequency receivers, or a smartphone app (with Internet access). Without any booths or equipment, CRSI is highly cost efficient. However, does it allow interpreters to deliver the same quality of work? And what is the user experience is like?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/2"][vc_single_image image="573" img_size="large" alignment="right"][vc_column_text]
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For any remote interpreting solutions, the audience should be able to receive the interpretation instantly and synchronously, which is the feasibility basis of such a solution. It would make no sense if the latency is more than one second, which may sound like nothing, but please bear in mind that interpreters, as humans, would inevitably introduce latency. Therefore, to ensure the most ideal audience experience, latency should be reduced to close to zero. To achieve that, the practical solution using RSI is through satellite or lease-line communication (the first type of RSI discussed above), when budget is not a concern. How about CRSI, which is much more cost efficient? How different is it as compared to the typical RSI?
Given the technical constraints above, CRSI is more suitable for situations where audience is not physically at the conference as they will not be able to find out about the rather significant delay.
Interpreter’s user experience is so important that we should not ignore because it is critical to delivering good translation at such high-pressure working environment.
That said, it is not impossible to mitigate some of these usability issues, but the improved solution would be much closer to the traditional interpreting console used in a traditional onsite interpreting setting. “Disruption” for the sake of disruption would not necessarily be something better (but perhaps worse).
We have talked about constraints and limitations, so what are the scenarios where interpreters can work with CRSI while minimizing the aforementioned usability issues?
If fellow interpreters are going to take up jobs through CRSI in the two scenarios mentioned above, here I believe are what they need to consider:
With all these in mind, the perfect situation where audience are able to listen to simultaneous interpretation wherever they want while interpreters can deliver efficiently and successfully is still far from reality. There is still a lot to be done in order to break down the technology bottlenecks of CRSI. However, if and when that is achieved, the world would become flat and remote interpreting would in fact be a “teleporting” technology. And it may not be the best for all as market rate would inevitably be brought down to the same level across the world and for markets that are currently enjoying the higher rates, such as mainland China and Japan, it could be a total game changer.Biography: Dr. Bernard Song, a consultant conference interpreter (English-Mandarin Chinese) based in Singapore, born and raised in the Mainland China. With more than 18 years of interpreting experience globally, Dr. Song also organizes multi-language teams of top interpreters for large events and conferences. He has also been an interpreter trainer for universities in Singapore years before.With a Ph.D in Computer Engineering, he has more than 12 years of research and development experience as a scientist and engineer, in Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Human Language Processing. With the IT background, Dr. Song has hands-on experience and in-depth knowledge of SI equipment, transmitters/receivers, CCU and radiators. He is also an avid fan of utilizing the latest technologies to transform the conference interpreting equipment landscape.