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Test: Sourcenext Pocketalk of mobile translators

Test: Sourcenext Pocketalk of mobile translators
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Christian Boas

Communication is fundamental in any human relationship and language barriers have always been an obstacle in history. But technology is changing the way we communicate with locals, for example, when we travel abroad. Yes, smartphones, tablets and computers have an impact on how we stay connected, entertained and informed abroad.

At IFA 2018 in Berlin, we stumbled across another gadget that aims to make human interaction technically easier. “Pocketalk” is the name of the small tool from Japan, which fits in every jacket pocket. According to the Japanese manufacturer Sourcenext, the Pocketalk speaks 74 languages from Afrikaans to Zulu in both directions. We tested Pocketalk for you after the IFA.

Der mobile Übersetzer Pocketalk von Sourcenext im moobilux-Test. (Bild: Der mobile Übersetzer Pocketalk von Sourcenext im moobilux-Test. (Bild: Der mobile Übersetzer Pocketalk von Sourcenext im moobilux-Test. (Bild:
LTE access
At first glance, the device looks like a hand cuddler, but it can do much more than just lie comfortably in the hand. Inside the gadget, which is expensive for 299 US dollars (RRP), there is a fixed SIM card (eSIM), via which the device is always connected to the Internet. This is essential for the functioning of the Pocketalk, which without Internet does not translate it. For the first two years, access via the available mobile phone providers is covered by the purchase price. In addition, there is also the possibility to insert a second regular SIM card.

In the third year, mobile data access will be extended for a small fee. Alternatively, the device can also be connected to the Internet via WLAN. By the way, the WLAN is mandatory for software updates, because these do not go via the mobile LTE access. During our test there were several updates, which the Pocketalk announces via a message in the upper edge of the screen.

The Pocketalk is a real-time translator that can translate words in one of up to 74 different languages. This translation process takes place quite quickly, after pressing a key, you speak your sentence or several sentences in the language you specify. It is important to think of punctuation marks like period and comma. A short time later, the translation is displayed on the screen as text and played back acoustically in English <-> Russian.

However, the acoustic speech output in our test is not available for every language, so in the test of “Swahili” there was only one text output, which we could not check due to the lack of language knowledge.

Translation quality
However, we were able to check the translation into Russian and the Russian translation into German. Many thanks to our colleague Olga Tkacheva who, as a Russian native speaker, contributed her assessments of the quality of the Pocketalk translation for our test.

In her opinion, the accuracy of the translation is quite good and should be sufficient for a simple conversation on the way. However, the device has problems with words that may have different or more meanings depending on the context. The same is true for the translated German <-> English, where the quality of the translation is also good, which is probably due to the machine learning used by the Pocketalk operators.

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