What Zoom's Newest Feature Means for Cloud-based Interpretation


Greg Eiselt

It's no secret that 2019 is shaping up to be a massive year for unicorn IPOs, with Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, Airbnb, Slack, and more all aiming for colossal valuations.

Video conferencing giant Zoom is also gearing up for their debut later this year, with their S1 due any day now. With their valuation announcement looming and the industry having a major trade show in Florida this week, Zoom's blog released plans for a slew of new features to be released over the course of 2019.

As a language and investment services provider that staffs interpreters on thousands of multilingual phone calls every year, our eyes were naturally drawn to one particular feature:

Simultaneous interpretation: Support for interpreters via multiple audio channels in a Zoom meeting will be available in the third quarter of 2019. Meeting participants can choose their language of choice among many to receive real-time interpretation of the other participants’ speech.

This could be a game-changer for how we conduct calls.

What's simultaneous interpretation?

Before we dive in to why this is industry-changing news, bear with us while we set the stage by introducing some basic industry terminology:

Interpretation: oral translation between parties. An interpreter is the person who facilitates business meetings, while a translator is the one who makes sure documents and written text say the same thing in multiple languages.

Simultaneous interpretation (SI): interpretation where the speaker's words are translated into another language as they speak. This is generally used in large event settings (think a UN meeting where everyone is wearing headsets) and is a completely different skill from consecutive interpretation (CI), where an interpreter will listen to one party speak, then translate what they've said into another language consecutively.

Long story short: if you've worn a headset at an event and listened to an interpreter interpret in real time, you were listening to SI. Business meeting with an interpreter in the room or on the phone line? Almost certainly CI.

How does it work over the phone?

Cadence has offered cloud-based SI (cloud-based of course meaning that it takes place remotely, allowing the parties involved to be in different rooms or spaces) as a service for a long time, but we've hosted only two such calls in the last year. If we're being honest, a number of factors make this wholly unsurprising, including (but not limited to):

  1. Existing cloud-based SI software is unintuitive and cumbersome to use;

  2. Clients require a complex onboarding process to have access;

  3. Inconsistent technical performance;

  4. Double the cost of cloud-based CI due to the need for two interpreters due to the demanding nature of the work.

So why are we so excited about Zoom's announcement?

Not only is Zoom solving the interface and onboarding issues while providing a remarkably stable platform to conduct calls, it's also debuting specifically for Zoom Meetings, meaning that it has direct applications for our favorite, and most often requested, assignment: expert network and investor relations calls.

So what does this mean for my next cloud-based interpreted call?

We can't predict all of the ramifications of the announcement, but most immediately:

  • Cloud-based SI will potentially halve the time needed to complete a call. If you've ever participated in an interpreted interaction, you'll know there's often a substantial amount of time spent waiting around for your counterpart to finish speaking. During a SI-powered interaction, that delay is neutralized.

  • For frequent expert network call consumers, you know just how valuable every minute of a conversation is. With cloud-based SI, not only will you get double the information during your 60 minutes, you won't have to wait for an expert to finish their 5-minute answer (and the interpreter to interpret) before knowing whether or not it's relevant to your research.

  • Finally, Zoom's functionality enables you to switch between languages on the fly. If you're lucky enough to be bilingual and want to check on the quality of the interpretation, a simple click or two allows you to switch.

As you can tell, we can't wait to offer new-and-improved cloud-based SI to our clients when this update launches in Q3 2019. If it were up to us, we'd probably peg an extra billion to Zoom's IPO valuation for this feature alone; let's see if the investors agree.

Interested to hear how cloud-based CI and SI sound? Listen to the recordings below for examples:

Cloud-based CI expert call

Cloud-based SI expert call