Interpretation application RSI X reached over 50,000 users! Interview with the developer about why the service was chosen at major international events
In the summer of 2021, the world’s largest international sports event was held, with nearly 100 interpreters from Japan and elsewhere gathering in Tokyo. At the event, the remote simultaneous interpretation application RSI X was used as a way to relay what was happening in the intense competitions, with users including many companies and organizations. RSI X was there, supporting the event from behind the scenes.
In the following article, we interview the lead developer of RSI X, Alexandre Ponomarev who has had a career as an interpreter. We discussed the secrets behind the development of the app, the evaluations from users, and the outlook going forward.
Profile of interview subject
Alexandre Ponomarev was born in Switzerland. After graduating from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in the United States, he began to work as an interpreter. He is skilled at interpretation in several languages, including Russian, Ukrainian, English, German, Spanish, and Danish. He has interpreted at the World Economic Forum and at the world’s largest international sports event, and has a great deal of experience with interpreting at Group of Eight conferences such as the G8 Summit and the G20 summit. He is currently engaged in consulting for interpretation.
The background to developing RSI X among existing competitive apps
Ponomarev: In 2019, I was asked as an interpreter: “Would you like to use a system for RSI (remote simultaneous interpretation)?” I answered, “No.” I had tried using several RSI services, but there were none that were easy to use or worthy of much praise from the point of view of the interpreter.
In actual practice, when I tried to use an RSI, I didn’t think that the UI/UX* was designed in a way that showed an understanding of the needs of an interpreter. I felt that there were many issues that should be improved upon. That was at the time when COVID-19 infections became rampant around the world. In March 2020, there was a period in the Ukraine when people were totally unable to move. This was a huge problem for interpreters, who need to physically be onsite to work. Therefore, in consideration of the needs of interpreters, I decided to undertake the development of a platform (app) that would enable all interpreters to display their performance abilities.
*UI: User Interface. The point of contact that connects a person to a product or service. UX: User Experience. The overall experience of a person using a product or service.
Use environment of the targets and the performance required of an app
Ponomarev: The necessity of RSI will differ according to the client, and the functions and specifications they require will change. Some clients want to use it for Zoom meetings, some for meetings in Microsoft Teams. We also hear many opinions designating Web conferencing systems. Taking these opinions into account, we ascertained that an app that is compatible with every kind of Web conferencing system that the clients are using would be required.
There are two points of operability that are also important: the high quality of the voice sound, and an app that is simple and intuitive to use. These are factors in transmitting a reliable and high quality interpretation voice sound when connecting with a Web conferencing system. Also, in planning to differentiate our RSI service from that of other companies, we set up an organization of a select few engineers in order to make flexible updates possible. Being able to quickly respond to a diversity of needs is why our service was chosen for use at the world’s largest international sports event.
Fixing the weaknesses in the web conferencing system multilingual function
Ponomarev: In cases of carrying out interpretation for two languages in online conferences held on platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, there are times when the client can do the preparations by themselves without any support from us. However, in the case of multilingual events where interpretation for three of more languages needs to be handled, we receive a great deal of inquiries stating that the client does not know how to prepare for it.
This isn’t very well-known, but the operations that an interpreter performs when dealing with several languages at once are quite intricate. For example, an interpreter logs into Zoom using a separate device such as a computer or smartphone solely for the purpose of hearing the simultaneous relay interpretation. At the same time as that operation, they also have to start up and connect via a platform such as WhatsApp in order to communicate with their fellow interpreters. This means that in addition to interpreting, they also have to operate many devices by hand and deal with multiple tasks at once, which causes a great deal of stress.
The complex tasks can cause the details and quality of the interpretation to suffer, and not only that, they can even cause mistakes to occur in the interpretation. And this is where RSI X comes in. It consolidates all these operations onto a single device, making it easy for the interpreter to operate and use. In that sense, it’s an app that puts the needs of the interpreter first.
*What is simultaneous relay interpretation?
Called “relay interpretation” for short, this is an interpretation procedure that is used when the number of languages that need to be handled are three or more. Take for example a conference where Japanese, English, and Korean are being used. An interpreter handling Japanese to English and an interpreter handling Japanese to Korean would be working together. A statement made in English would be first translated into Japanese, and the Japanese to Korean interpreter would hear that Japanese and translate it into Korean. This means that the flow of the interpretation would be from English to Japanese to Korean.
Transmits reliable voice data with low speed mode and 3G connectivity
Ponomarev: RSI X excels at keeping transmission volumes light when compared to the products of other companies. To state things in the extreme, there is no need for a high-speed internet environment on the side of the user if they use this app. For example, the most up to date communications environment might not be set up according to the given country or place, or the specification of the user’s smartphone might be out of date. In cases like these, it is important to be able to transmit reliable voice data even under conditions such as low speed mode and 3G connectivity. That’s why we focused our efforts on enhancing the transmission performance.
Furthermore, the thing that causes the most concern at events and conferences held in an online environment is the unstable internet connection environment of participants. Also, there is a growing number of cases where attendees are participating, watching, and listening from their homes, someplace outside their office or workplace, or while riding a train. Accordingly, being able to reliably transmit voice data in environments with minimal internet is said to be a critical condition for remote simultaneous interpretation.
Objective evaluations from the user’s point of view after having used RSI X
Ponomarev: I’m particularly happy that we are receiving a great deal of positive feedback related to RSI X. Our clients have conducted evaluation reviews, and we’ve received comments such as “The quality of the voice sound is excellent,” and “The app is very user-friendly. The UI/UX excel from the interpreter’s point of view, which consequently makes for good quality in the details of the interpretation and voice sound, and this ultimately is able to contribute to good results with business discussions and negotiations in which interpretation is necessary. I believe that this is where the true value of RSI X is found. And in the media relations, a news story about me was featured in USA TODAY, a U.S. web media outlet.
Specific example of use and the opinions of the clients
United Nations Organization: An event at which six languages needed to be interpreted
The user-friendliness is very good. Originally, we had been using another platform, but RSI X is simpler and has higher voice sound quality. Also, the response of the person in charge of service was excellent, so we are continuing to use RSI X.
The world’s largest international sports event: accessed by users that total more than 20,000 people from around the world
No matter where I go, I can view the press conferences and hear what’s being said with just one smartphone, so it’s extremely convenient. Also, there were no problems with the connectivity.
Major energy agency: Simultaneous access of 6,000 users to a town hall-style meeting
We are very satisfied with the response of the support staff! The best things about it are that it’s simple and easy to use.
Aiming to spark innovation in the digital domain together with JCS
Ponomarev: I’m very pleased that we were able to conclude a partnership contract with JCS that will lead to the widespread use of RSI X in Japan. We are handling large-scale events such as the world’s largest international sports event, but we can’t yet say that the scale of our company is large. Currently we are carrying out our sales activities with a focus on Europe and the United States. But going forward, we will enhance our business aspects in every region in order to conduct activities that target the entire world, and Japan is the first step. In 2022, we plan to further increase our market share.
In the convention and event industry, the use of ICT and cloud shift—an area we are thoroughly investigating—is unavoidable. We predict that events held in physical spaces at venues will still remain firmly rooted, but many conferences are moving online, based on the convenience and efficiency of DX. We are working to accurately grasp these diverse market needs, and plan to release ICT services such as a desktop application and a video conferencing platform. In digital domains such as these, I want us to cooperate with JCS to generate innovation.