The New Scientist reports that some researchers believe they’ve found an automatic translator. This device recognizes phonemes, and then words, and converts them to the other language. So far, the researchers have gotten the system to recognize about 100 Mandarin words that it then translated to English or Spanish. The program apparently has about 62% accuracy.
While translation technology has certainly developed a lot in recent years and this latest idea is interesting, I think it’s safe to say a real Babel fish has not yet arrived, so simultaneous interpreters (and the rest of us who work with translation in some way) are still needed.