Translate with ease

How the creator of iTranslate Converse crafted a simple-to-use app.

iTranslate Converse

Translate Voice in Real Time


Depending on how you look at it, iTranslate Converse was either three months or a decade in the making.

When Austrian company iTranslate released its first, text-only translator app back in 2009 it was an undeniable hit. Yet CEO and Converse creator Alexander Marktl wasn’t satisfied, concluding that they needed an app that stripped the process to the essentials.

Since that initial success, iTranslate has released more apps and developed its technology – branching into visual and voice translation.

And with Converse, everything’s been refined. You simply touch and hold its bright orange screen to translate your conversation into 38 languages and dialects as you speak. Here, Marktl explains how he got the idea, and why developers shouldn’t strive for a perfect prototype.

A super-simplified interface makes for more intuitive real-time communication.

What problem were you trying to solve with Converse?
Most of the existing voice translation apps had two buttons: you choose your languages, you start talking, and it tries to detect when you stop. Those apps will not detect when you stop speaking, because there’s too much background noise. So we came up with the tap-and-hold gesture, like a walkie-talkie.

Then there’s the problem that often you end up interacting with the phone instead of the person. We really wanted to create an experience where you use the entire screen as a button. If you know where the screen is, you know where the button is – you don’t really need to interact with the phone, you just feel it. There’s even a 3D Touch feature where you get haptic feedback. Those two simple tricks created an entirely new experience.

The Apple Watch app puts iTranslate Converse’s bridge-building powers within easier reach.

What turned out to be easier than you expected?
I was surprised by how fast we executed the app. We had all the APIs, so once we had the concept, we completed it in about three months.

At what point did you realise that you could pull this off?
The biggest moment for me was after I had the concept and we made the designs – and I felt how fast it was. Most people within the company were very skeptical of the concept when I introduced it. When they saw the prototype and played around with it, all of a sudden everyone was fully in.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t put a year or more into an app design concept. Even if it doesn’t feel perfect, it’s so rewarding and important to get feedback.

Whats next for you?
The journey’s not over with a design award. Our company vision is to enable anyone to speak any language. We want the app to work fully offline without internet. We also believe in visual translation very much, especially in combination with augmented reality.

    iTranslate Converse

    Translate Voice in Real Time