Google has plans to turn future smartphones into universal translators. You speak into a handset in one language and the person at the other end of the line hears another. It is being dubbed the "Babel Fish mobile" after the small, yellow fish that appears in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In addition, you will be able to take your phone to another country and use it to translate for you, even in the most remote places.

Such a Google device would not actually be the first to offer the a service - a Docomo Translator phone was demonstrated during the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona in February. But the idea behind the Babel Fish mobile is that it would perform the translation in real time, with the interpreted words being transmitted seconds after being spoken.

That's the trickiest part, reports British newspaper The Times.

"That is where we're headed," said Hugo Barra, a vice-president of Android. "We've got tons of prototypes of that sort of interaction, and I've played with it every other week to see how much progress we've made."

Translation is already possible through a mobile device, with Google Translate being one of many online language translators available. Manufacturers have offered their versions on smartphones for a while, with Samsung recently adding S Translate to its suite of apps. You can speak in your language and it will convert it to text in another, or read the translation aloud.

Being able to translate on the fly during a phone call is an enticing feature, however. And you won't even need to put a small fish in your ear.

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