As I have pointed out in a recent post, technology is (again) disrupting our profession. More specifically, several "translation apps" have entered the scene as mobile devices conquer our lives. Google's Translate service has been available for a while. Next, Word Lens made a big splash as the first mobile app able to translate what the users saw through the lens of their smartphone camera. The last wave is that of "interpreting apps" such as Babelverse (here's my take on it) that want to provide a platform where supply (i.e. interpreters) and demand (i.e. clients) meet and work together. Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), it seems, is not a fad but here to stay.
However, as the Babelverse controversy clearly showed, the approach chosen by some aspiring disruptors wasn't quite right. If you want to read a thoughtful piece about this, look no further than Jonathan Downie's "Crowdsourcing and the Shrinking Middle".
Today, I want to write about a new interpretation app that has launched its beta version just in time for the 54th ATA Annual Conference. It goes by the quirky name Capiche and, in my humble opinion, is doing a lot of things right. A few weeks ago, Frederick Marx - CEO of Keylingo Translations and co-founder of Capiche - contacted me and gave me an in-depth presentation of his project.
First off, I like the name Capiche. There have been too many references to the Tower of Babel in translation and interpretation anyway and I never found them particularly suitable. Capiche also keeps it simple for now. It works similarly to a two-party video call: the client and their communication partner on one side and the interpreter on the other, working in consecutive mode. This would make make sense for settings in public health (doctor's office) or law enforcement (questioning at police office, deposition).
In order to be successful, such a platform must use rock-solid technology. Capiche has chosen to use an innovative technology called WebRTC (real-time communication on the web). But what is so great about WebRTC?
Proprietary software and plugins are the bane of internet communications, [...] as you spend more time negotiating over what tool to use than on the eventual conversation. [...] WebRTC [...] is intended to be an open standard for video and voice communication, embedded in the software that is on every desktop – the browser. [...] You will be able to use a web-based communications service to start a conversation with a friend or colleague (or even a one-to-many or many-to-many web conference), with voice and video, as well as sharing files over a peer-to-peer connection. While a web service will mediate the call, the browser you are using will not matter, as the technology to work with your computer’s camera and microphone will be built-in, with no plugins needed.
I have done several tests of Capiche and WebRTC and found it very good. It was certainly more reliable and less fiddly than Skype or Google Hangouts. But in addition to providing a stable technological platform, Capiche will try to make the matching between clients and interpreters easier. Both can sign up with the service indicating what they want or offer. The system then informs the interpreter of new "opportunities" and he/she can accept or decline. Currently, Capiche comes in two flavours:
- Open: Interpreters register and are vetted (how and by whom is unclear). Then, they have access to job offers from clients. Interpreters can establish links with regular clients to get priority access to new jobs.
- Private: Interpreters bring their own clients to the platform and maintain a private relationship with them. Private clients are not exposed to other interpreters.
On top of that, interpreters can also build "links" to their peers and form trusted relationships, i.e. when it comes to working together on jobs or replacing a colleague in case of sickness or other problems. There is also a feedback feature for clients and interpreters, but it is intentionally limited at this early stage.
Money, money, money
Pricing information is available on the Capiche website. I will not discuss pricing in this post because I think it will be subject to further developments - the Capiche team will probably have to diversify their fee structure according to where interpreters and/or clients are based. In addition, the users will have to decide on whether the added value of platform justifies the one-third/two-thirds split. Capiche offers several channels to pay interpreters (including the not-so-uncontroversial PayPal), while clients just enter their credit card details to pay for services used. According to Capiche, payments are processed every Friday and within 7-10 days.
There are a few things that could be improved on the Capiche platform. I have transmitted my suggestions to the developers already, and here they are for your information:
- client-interpreter relations: send preparation material; make list of subjects more precise (currently: general, legal, medical)
- interpreter-interpreter relations: exchange of documents and information (including terminology)
- explain the vetting process
The Capiche team also has an iPhone app in the works. I will report on that as soon as I have tested it.
I am curious to see how Capiche will be doing in the coming weeks and months. Will you be giving it a try?