Google Translate, China and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

In 2013, I traveled to Shanghai, China to finish the last semester of my MBA from Hult International Business School. Shanghai is one of those cities that I always thought would be so cool to live in especially if one wants to understand how business is done in China. I was excited until I found out I was pregnant and realized I would have to live there on my own for 3 months. My husband was also finishing his studies and working on a startup in the Philippines.

I mention China because in light of Google Translate’s release of new features, I think of that time when I used Google Translate semi-extensively to navigate a city whose language is completely foreign and whose citizens barely spoke a word of English. I say, semi-extensively because Google’s services were a little slow to load in mainland China even with VPN. I did use it to try to communicate to a cabdriver or in restaurants. Since I didn’t know how to pronounce the words, I would end up giving the phone to the other person to read Google Translate. It worked well in restaurants if only to know which one is duck, pork or chicken. Unfortunately, most cabdrivers have vision problems (not very reassuring) and they usually give up trying to read on the screen.

One of the new features which is the ability for the app to listen to a conversation between two people and translate it to each other’s language would have been quite handy in those days. For now, it’s only available for English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian. I hope they add the really gnarly (to me, at least) languages there at some point. Another update is “word lens” which uses the phone’s camera to “look” at a street sign for example, and translate it in real time. It’s also useful for translating menus. Those days of ordering beef tongue and getting a surprise will soon be over. For a review of the app, watch the video of the app in action here.

Here are the most relevant news in tech and retail this week.

In tech:

  1. Apple, Google, et. al to pay $415M to settle no-poaching class action lawsuit
  2. Google Glass exits special projects division Google[x] to be a standalone unit under Tony Fadell of Google-acquired Nest Labs; Explorer program will end on January 19, 2015
  3. Facebook At Work officially launches on iOS, Android and broswer; companies can create their own social networks
  4. GoPro shares tumble 6% on Tuesday after Apple secured a patent for a portable digital camera and wrist-worn remote
  5. India’s restaurant search business Zomato acquires US company Urbanspoon in a reported $60M all-cash-deal

In retail:

  1. China to allow full foreign ownership of e-commerce firms in Shanghai’s free trade zone as part of a pilot scheme
  2. Target exits Canada, will close 133 stores after racking up $2B in net losses since 2011
  3. Etsy, the marketplace for handmade and vintage items, is crafting an IPO which could raise $300M
  4. Richemont, owner of Cartier, posts weakest Q3 sales for the first time in 6 years
  5. Nasty Gal Founder Sophia Amoruso steps down as CEO, will head creative and brand marketing
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