On the Interpreting Technology panel at SlatorCon Remote December 2021, three important players in the remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) space assessed the role of technology in on-demand interpreting and multilingual online conferencing.
Virpal Singh, CEO and Founder of DigitalTolk, which focuses primarily on servicing the public sector, talked about how his company uses technology and automation to help match interpreters for a huge range of languages. Singh said DigitalTolk’s scheduling is automated to the extent that 80–90% of their bookings require zero administrative input.
“It’s about making sure the high-resource languages are completely handled in an automated way, which allows us to put more resources and time into handling those little-bit-more-tricky bookings,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gene Schriver, CEO of US-based on-demand service provider GLOBO, said that their platform was built with the guiding principle of the interface for interpreters being as important as the customer experience. Schriver said, “We wanted to be able to attract interpreters to our platform because they have lots of choices of companies they can work with and we wanted to make that experience the best in the market.”
GLOBO’s platform provides interpreters with reference materials and glossaries, and is also able to tell interpreters how they are performing, how much they are earning, and how much time they have spent on the platform, in what Shriver described as a “gamified” and “more optimized experience.”
Oddmund Braaten, COO and Board Member at Interprefy, explained that the Swiss-based company turned its focus to making their RSI platform more scalable and reliable when they saw a surge in demand linked to Covid.
Braaten said they also added screen readers and sign language interpreting to enhance accessibility, in addition to live captioning in 31 languages — which he described as a venture “into the AI world” and “the start of what we see going into machine translation.” Moreover, “a big step for Interprefy is going from human-only to a combination of man-machine,” he said.
Focus on Integrations
The three interpreting panelists shared their thoughts on the market for interpreting in a post-Covid world, with Interprefy’s Braaten recalling that, prior to the pandemic, 95% of simultaneous interpreting was onsite, while only 5% was remote. He said customers see hybrid meetings as the new normal, “with some people onsite and some online, and being able to extend the meetings via this blended meeting setup.” Regardless of the setup, “RSI is here to stay,” he noted.
From his vantage point in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, Singh talked about the fragmentation of the European market for over-the-phone (OPI) and virtual remote interpreting (VRI) along national borders, which he said was explained by language barriers and legislation. For example, there are major differences in “what subventions exist and what the public health [system] is offering as compared to private health” in each market, which has a big impact on how interpreting is ordered and delivered.
Moving Stateside, Schriver compared the demand for VRI versus OPI, saying that demand for the former has increased dramatically over the last decade, particularly in the healthcare space. “There was an additional bump that was created by Covid in that most interactions moved to telehealth,” Schriver said. This prompted GLOBO to put more energy into telehealth integrations, such as their partnership with a major telehealth platform, to facilitate video interactions with patients.
While on the same topic, Interprefy’s Braaten gave an overview of how they approach and prioritize integrations — and juggle the many requests from customers for specific integrations. Interprefy now has a dedicated team to support partners like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. As he explained, “No one is looking for an extra platform to go on just to do simultaneous interpreting. So we have to be where the customers are; and the customers are on Zoom, Webex, and even Hopin.”
Rounding off the discussion, the experts fielded audience questions relating to ISO certification for sound quality, the challenge of interpreting in sensitive settings, and measuring and ensuring interpreting quality.