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Vocre Language Translator

Saying adiós to language barriers

Overview

Vocre [voh-krey] is a language translation mobile app, from myLanguage, that is designed to improve in-person, multi-language, spoken or written communication – powered by a translation engine focused on conversational data.

Vocre was originally conceptualized, designed and developed within a ~3 month timeframe – a collaborative effort between myself (Co-Founder, Chief Product Officer) and Andrew Lauder, Founder, CEO – to align with known interaction patterns, user requests and our entry into TechCrunch Disrupt's Startup Alley; of which we were honored with Best Mobile App and Audience Choice awards.

Over the years, there has been numerous iterations of the interface to support changing technologies and to improve the overall user experience; making it what it is today.

Vocre is primarily designed to solve in-person conversations, when a language barrier is present; however, there have been countless people that have found benefit in making use of it when learning a new language – gathering key phrases, while building their vocabulary.

As a startup, the small team had to wear multiple hats. Serving as CPO, I led Product Design initiatives through User Experience – roadmapping, conceptualizing, architecting and designing mobile applications (like Vocre) that enabled people to learn another language and/or even communicate with others when different languages were spoken.

Insights

While designing the various versions of the Vocre app, the vast majority of our directional findings and insights came from competitive and heuristic analysis, plus continuous user feedback gathering via app store reviews and in-app support.

Key Findings

People wanted an easy way to communicate with others that happen to speak a different language – whether traveling abroad or in their daily lives.

Problems to Solve

The problem started simply as: How can we make it simple for people to communicate when there is a language barrier. Well, it's far from simple. Language translation isn't easy and this gets compounded in knowing that people speak differently than they write (where, at the time, general written data was used to train translation platforms like Google, Microsoft, etc.). With spoken conversations, local slang and colloquial expressions further compound the issue, usually requiring a savvy human interpreter.

We could create the best interface and interaction patterns to support automated translations (solving the "ease" of use), but if the translations were wrong, being essentially incomprehensible, we would have failed.

In other words, the problem extends well beyond the interface.

Solutions

While being mindful of translation quality – creating and evolving a conversational translation service, we concurrently focused on how to best support conversational interactions, making use of a device the majority already had in their pocket (smartphone).

Made it accessible, especially with well established distributions channels, such as the app stores.

Vocre 1.0 – Tilt to Translate

Vocre 1.0 was focused on a back-and-forth, accelerometer-driven translation experience. This allowed for a reduction in button tapping to trigger the "listening" of speech and to trigger a "translation", instead, one simply tilted their wrist while holding the phone.

Learnings:
This was a unique and unconventional interaction pattern that was picked-up by some users faster than others; where some liked it, and others had difficulty. These difficulties seeded a new, "tabletop" experience.

...

Vocre 1.1 – Tabletop

We found that a lot of people naturally felt more comfortable being directly across from eachother when having conversations (especially when communicating with people they just met), so we designed an experience that allowed the smartphone or tablet to sit flat on a table, between the two people wishing to have a translated conversation.

Technology impacts:
As iOS matured, there were restrictions built in that limited us from maintaining this approach – where the orientation of the screen's keyboard could no longer be swapped to the other side of the screen, making it difficult for both parties to easily edit their input (if speech recognition heard them wrong).

...

Vocre 2 – Messaging Style

As mobile messaging apps have rooted a messaging style UI pattern, we found that leveraging this pattern could ease learnability and onboarding, but also lend itself quite well to this in-person experience, since the translations engagement is conversational.

These interface refinements were also accompanied by interaction enhancements and a minor rebrand, modernizing and simplifying the brand offering.

...

Results

We were honored to be able to launch Vocre at TechCrunch Disrupt, in San Francisco – where we took home Audience Choice and Best Mobile App awards (first time a single company won two awards) – which gave us a great platform and coverage. Other related speaking engagements include Launch Festival in San Francisco, and Mobile Asia Congress in Hong Kong.

After the initial launch, and with subsequent iterations of the application, we received interest for collaboration by a diverse set of parties, with similar, but different language related problems:

  • Samsung – Invited to and spoke in Korea at Samsung HQ to evaluate native translation services for their flagship phone at the time.
  • US State Department – Interest in us providing automated speech translations to be relayed through SMS abroad.
  • California 911 Emergency – Interest in us providing automated translation for emergency calls.
  • A Telecommunications company (from Central America) had interest in automated translations to be served via their network.
  • and more...
Copyright @ Pianoforte solicitude so decisively unpleasing conviction is partiality he.
4.7/5
Rating on Apple iTunes

(as of October 2020)

6M
Downloads and counting

For all myLanguage apps, including Vocre.
(as of October 2020)

200M
Translations Served

For all myLanguage apps, including Vocre.
(as of October 2020)

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