Optus to unleash in-call translator on some postpaid customers

Optus is set to unleash onto the public an in-call translation service powered by Google technology that can translate between languages in real-time.

CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin told the CommsDay Summit that the telco is taking expressions of interest from postpaid customers that want to trial the service.

Optus first flagged its development of a live in-call translation service back in May 2019 as part of long-term work on an in-call voice assistant, which at that time was called ‘Voice Genie’.

It wasn’t immediately clear what had occurred in the two year since the in-call translation was first demonstrated at a US technology conference and the impending trial announced today, however it appears that it may have been rearchitected.

Further comment was being sought from an Optus spokesperson at the time of publication.

Bayer Rosmarin said Optus is “working with Google who have partnered with us to provide the natural language translation”. Optus is already working with Google elsewhere in the business on a voice-based AI concierge to triage customer service inquiries.

“What’s completely unique [about ‘call translate’] is that we digitalise the voice by translating the voice traffic in real-time,” she said.

Bayer Rosmarin said the intention of the ‘call translate’ service was to “break through language barriers for customers.”

“In a multilingual country like Australia, eliminating challenges caused by speaking in different languages brings people closer together,” she said.

“Imagine you want your English-speaking child in Sydney to chat easily over the phone with their Italian speaking Nonna in Melbourne, or when English is a second language, consider the ease of simply booking a medical appointment or managing an over-the-phone customer service enquiry.”

The service – and a number of other existing initiatives – are also being packaged into a broader Optus 2030 vision unveiled today, that Optus is branding its ‘living network’.

Essentially, the ‘Optus Living Network’ vision is about offering services that enable consumers to exert a greater degree of control over the way they use and interact with the Optus network.

Part of that is made possible by the move to 5G, which technically can be configured to support a wide range of different use cases.

“Optus has considered what the backbone of our business – our network – must be [capable of] to meet customers’ needs in 2030,” Bayer Rosmarin said.

“Today, I present to you the ‘Optus Living Network’.

“It’s a network that isn’t static and fixed, but one that comes alive in your hands at the touch of a button.

“It’s not dollars for gigs, but unique features that enable the network to adapt to our customer’s needs, at their demand.”