Immensely popular sandbox game Roblox has added real-time text translation to its in-game chat, powered by AI. Its developers are already looking at applying the tech to other multilingual elements in the game, including voice chat that mimics the speaker’s tone and expression.

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The instantaneous translation of text chat is live now in all Roblox experiences that allow for TextChatService, supporting 16 different languages - including Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese, plus English - that will be automatically translated into any of the other languages when chatting with other users, in any combination of languages. For example, English-language users will see the messages in English by default, with the option to press a translation icon next to translated text to view the original dialect. Roblox’s developers said the latency between sending a message and translation is 100 milliseconds or less, effectively making it real-time.

The AI-powered tech allows for Roblox-specific slang and lingo on top of everyday conversation, as well as allowing for typos and abbreviations, with the Roblox developers breaking down their use of a language learning model in a detailed blog post. The model is said to have been trained on open-source data in combination with Roblox’s own translation data.

While Roblox already had translation features in-game for elements of user-created experiences, the big change here is the speed at which the translation is performed and takes into account the way users write. The completed system still has the same moderation features built in to restrict banned words or phrases, regardless of language.

A demonstration of real-time text translation in Roblox
Image credit: Roblox

While the translation tool will continue to be refined via a user feedback tool that will allow users to suggest more accurate translations, Roblox also plans to apply a similar idea to other areas of the game. That includes experimenting with automatic translation of voice chat, with the ambition being to recreate the rhythm, tone and emotion of a speaker while being translated in close to real-time. The developers also said they were looking at applying the instant translation to images, textures and 3D models seen in-game.

“The ability for people to have seamless, natural conversations in their native languages brings us closer to our goal of connecting a billion people with optimism and civility,” said Roblox’s chief technology officer Daniel Sturman.