Online Interpreting: New Players on the Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI) Market

The first article by conference interpreter Natalia Fedorenkova — 6 remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) platforms and Zoom – was devoted to the “heavy weights” among RSI platforms that long secured their market share. The time passes by and, taking into account the surging demand for remote simultaneous interpreting solutions due to the pandemic, it is no surprise that new platforms are emerging. Let us see what they have to offer. Today we will look at QuaQua, Rafiky, Ablioconference and Webswitcher.

Criteria for comparing RSI platforms

Natalia took the same 12 main criteria for comparing RSI platforms as she used before.

  1. An event platform or only RSI platform
  2. Interface
  3. Video stream
  4. Audio stream
  5. Relay
  6. Handover
  7. Response to requests (communication quality)
  8. Possibility to listen to the floor and your partner simultaneously
  9. Onboarding
  10. Technical requirements for the interpreter’s working station
  11. Technical support
  12. Mobile application for interpreters.

QuaQua

QuaQua is a Belgian platform developed by Duvall specializing in providing conference solutions to service online events. Therefore, QuaQua naturally is both an event platform and an RSI platform and has interfaces both for attendees and for interpreters. This is the attendees’ interface:

Fig. 1. QuaQua interface for online event attendees

As you can see, the center displays a speaker’s video and there are more speakers’ video windows on the left hand side. On the right hand side, there is a control panel for managing the attendees: the moderator can make attendees speakers giving them the floor. There is also a list of interpreters there. The maximum number of online interactive event attendees is 150 people (interpreters included). In case of more people, they can be connected in the streaming mode – then they will be able to see and hear but not speak. This option is suitable for webinars and large conferences. On the right hand side, there is also a chat for attendees. The control panel below can be used to control the camera, select the language (Floor button), adjust the relative volume of the floor and interpretation channels (DUB button) – the attendees can listen to the floor and interpretation simultaneously. The large microphone button is located in the center and the mic symbol with the dots indicates the incoming volume of your sound. Now let us move on to the interface for interpreters:

Fig. 2. QuaQua interface for interpreters

The control panel on the right hand side is the same as in the interface for attendees: the interpreters can see the list of speakers and attendees, read and write in the attendees’ chat and there is also a dedicated interpreters’ chat and the chat for interpreters and a moderator. There can be many video windows – depending on the number of speakers. There are two incoming audio channels: you can see them on top of the control panel below. In this case, these channels are ENG and RUS. These are the channels used for relay as well. There are also two outgoing channels: RUS and ENG, at the bottom of the control panel. It is possible to listen to your partner -–for that purpose you should press the Team button and adjust the relative volume of the floor and interpretation channels using DUB button. Floor button takes us back to the original sound channel and MUTE is used for short-time switching off of the mic.

As the title suggests, TAKEOVER REQUEST button is used for handover. Both the active and the passive interpreter can request handover. After pressing the button, the second interpreter will see a pop-up window with the handover request: he or she can accept or reject it. After the request is accepted, the partner can enable his or her mic and start interpreting.

The response to requests is good. Usually reply within a day.

You can fill in the request for the demo-session with QuaQua at their website to learn more about how the platform works and see all the functionalities. Then you can register with them and use the platform to service your online events. As for the onboarding process, as far as I understood, QuaQua prefers to work with interpreters as partners: they will be happy to help you with your clients. However, you can also apply to be included into their interpreters’ database.

Technical requirements for the working station of interpreters (and all online event attendees!) are as follows:

  1. PC/laptop with i5 Quad processor or higher;
  2. Fast and stable internet connection, recommended speed of minimum 8 mbps. Cable connection is recommended;
  3. Chrome browser, last version;
  4. Headset.

Dedicated technical support during the event is provided upon request for extra fee and free at your first event. In this case, a moderator is monitoring the event on the platform. If you did not request dedicated technical support, you can always contact the company by phone if anything goes wrong and get help.

There is no mobile application for interpreters.

Ablioconference

Ablio is well known as a company providing over-the-phone interpretation services. Some time ago Ablioconference, its daughter company, was set up – it is an Italian RSI platform, which is conceptually different from many RSI platforms. They present it as a tool and not a service – a tool for you to service your clients. Ablioconference partners or resellers, as they call them, register on the platform, create an account and after learning how the platform works can configure online events, distribute the roles of a manager and technical support, appoint interpreters and set up interpreting booths. The account contains the detailed information on how to do it and you can also do the training with Abiloconference. This is the control panel in the Ablioconference account:

Fig. 3. Ablioconference account

After creating an event in your account, you can test for free without limitations before the event. Usually Ablioconference partners use their own interpreters and provide technical support by themselves. However, upon request Ablioconference can also provide the interpreters and technical support. Their general position is that they are not an interpreting agency and if a client comes to them requesting the interpretation service, they are addressing him or her to their resellers (partners).

Ablioconference is only an RSI platform that can be integrated with any other streaming source. At the training, the Ablioconference specialist demonstrated integration with Youtube. All conference systems are supported as well.

Below you can see Ablioconference interface for interpreters – quite a simple layout:

Fig. 4 Ablioconference interface for interpreters

The video is streamed in the video window with Ablioconference logo. Below you can select an incoming audio channel (Speaker audio source: original): original or interpretation channel for relay. You will have as many channels as you configured when setting up the conference. There are two outgoing audio channels: in this case, Russian and English (output language menu). It is possible to listen to your boothmate (Listen button at the bottom) and adjust his or her volume relative to the speaker using the slider in Boothmate controls menu. To enable the mic and go on air you need to press the green button Connect and then your status will automatically change from Not on air to On air. The handover function is also there: the active interpreter presses the yellow button Pass below and the passive interpreter sees the flashing green button Take. After pressing it he or she will automatically go on air and the previously active interpreter goes of air. In the left bottom corner there is the Chat button (not shown on the screenshot) – interpreters and the event manager can use this chat to communicate during the event. The layout is simple but the main functions are all there.

The response to requests is good – reply within a day.

Ablioconference platform does not position itself as an interpreting agency. However, sometimes they use interpreters. To register as a conference interpreter with them you need, first, to fill in the form at the website, then send them your documents proving your qualification and experience (certificates, contracts, invoices). After that, you can be asked to do a test if considered necessary and you will have to do the training on the platform. If everything is fine, you will be then added to Ablioconference database.

Technical requirements for the working station of interpreters are as follows:

  1. Personal computer (desktop or laptop), I5 processor or similar, 8 Gb RAM;
  2. Operating system: Microsoft Windows or MAC IOS;
  3. Internet connection, the minimal requirements are 800 Kb/s upload and download. A wired connection is preferred;
  4. Browser: Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome;
  5. Headphones with integrated microphone: wired, USB connector. Preferably a model that provides suppression of external noises.

Ablioconference can provide technical support additionally upon request for extra fee, though their partners usually take this function upon themselves. In case of technical issues, you can always contact the company by phone or using the chat on the website.

There is a mobile application for attendees, but not the interpreters.

Rafiki

Rafiki is another new player on the market of RSI platforms. It is an Italian platform with interfaces both for interpreters and attendees. Thus, it is an event platform as well, though if required it can be integrated with external conference systems. This is the interface for event attendees:

Fig. 5 Rafiki interface for attendees

We have all the standard functions here: camera and microphone control, raising the hand, the chat, language selection – original and interpretation (at the top). It is also possible to adjust the relative volume of the original and interpretation channels.

This is the interface for interpreters:

Fig. 6 Rafiki interface for interpreters

The blue window in the centre is used for video and audio stream. If the speaker has a presentation and shares the screen, there will be another window with slides. There can be several speakers – up to five video windows in total. In the left bottom corner you can select the incoming audio channel – floor or interpretation language for relay. You can configure as many channels as you need. At present 20 channels was the maximum tested number of channels on the platform. In the right bottom corner you are selecting the language you are interpreting into (in this case it is Russian). You can listen to your partner and adjust his or her sound volume relative to the speaker using the sliders next to language selection menus. There is a microphone simbol on the control panel at the bottom – if it is enabled, it will be red. The first button on the central panel with the player symbol is the request to speakers to slow down: a curious function we have already seen elsewhere. I wonder if it does work. Then there is a handover button. Both the active and the passive interpreter can initiate the handover. After clicking on it you will see the menu with time options – when you want to hand over/take over (30 sec, 1 minute, etc.). After you select the time option your partner will see notification and countdown will start. When it reaches 0 the active interpreter’s mic will not autimatically switch off – it should be done manually, as well as the passive interpreter should switch on his or her mic manually as well. Thus, the handover function is merely informative, which is actually good in my view. Next to the handover button there is a chat button: there are several chats – general (with attendees and a moderator), for interpreters or with technical support.

The response to requests is good – reply within 1 day. However, after 2 demo-sessions and exchange of several e-mail disappeared and won’t answer…

Rafiki provide both an RSI platform only and an RSI platform together with interpreters. To join their interpreters’ pool you should fill in the form on the website and send your CV. After that you will have a training on the platform and possibly the interview and you are part of the team.

Technical requirements for the working station of interpreters are as follows:

  1. Internet connection, recommended speed – minimum 6 mbps. If the speed is below 50 mbps, Ethernet cable must be connected;
  2. Professional microphone connected to the PC;
  3. Professional headphones connected to the PC.

Technical support is provided upon request.

There is a mobile application for attendees, but not the interpreters.

Webswitcher

I came across this Canadian platform at an interpreting assignment. Before that I have never heard about it though it cannot be called, strictly speaking, a new player. Howebver, since this article looks at platforms that emerged or caught my attention only recently, Webswitcher is worth mentioning taking into account also the fact that I actually used it for work and not just did a training on it.

So what is Webswitcher? As far as I understood (no opportunity to clarify), this is only an RSI platform – it works alongside other external programs and integrates with them making it possible for interpreters to see and hear the floor directly on the platform, though to be on the safe side they recommend to open the external program on another device (sometimes the video quality is better there). This is Webswitcher interface for interpreters:

Fig. 7. Webswitcher interface for interpreters

After you enter the event code and log in to your account, you will see this screen. To start interpreting you need to press the upper orange panel Start interpretation. Then will have to press another orange panel Go live to activate the system. Then you will see the microphone symbol in the centre at the bottom that can be enabled and disabled manually. At the bottom control panel on the left you can see the list of incoming channels – in this case there are 4 of them: FL (floor) and 3 interpretation languages. On the right there are outgoing channels – usually you need 2. By pressing on the respective channel you are selecting the sound you are receiving and the language you are interpreting into. Thus, there is a relay. Besides, you can listen to as many channels as you like, including your partner’s channel, of course. On the right hand side of the top control panel you can see screen extension symbol, chat and settings. There is a very elaborated handover function. The handover is initiated by the active interpreter, which is not so convenient but we have seen it on other platforms quite often. First you should press the button with two arrows. Then you will see a dropdown menu with available interpreters and if the conference is interpreted into several languages you will see ALL the interpreters in all language combinations. Out of this list you should select your partner (and I will remind you that you are actually interpreting during this process), then confirm your choice by pressing handover button. Thus, you have to press something three times. After that the passive interpreter will see the notification and the acceptance of the request automatically switches off the mic of the active interpreter. So you do not press this button at once – you need to wait for the pause. This way it turns out that it is the passive interpreter who controls the handover moment and not the active one as usually. I believe it is not too hard to guess that we did manual handover: I switched off my mic and my partner switched it on upon previous agreement in whatsapp.

The resonse to requests – I received an answer to my e-mail in two days.

The technical support is provided.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to tell you about the onboarding, technical requirements for interpreters’ working station, the mobile application and prices since I did not receive the answers to these questions from the company. When I asked about the prices, they suggested that I should bring them the client in first….

Prices

QuaQua pricing is as follows. The price for 2 languages (1 language booth) is 100 euro/hour and 300 euro/day. Price for 1 attendee is 3 euro/hour and 7 hours/day (first 25 attendees are for free). Online technical support and support over the phone are free, dedicated technical support (a moderator on the platform) – 75 euro/hour, at your first event – for free. This price covers testing beforehand and guidance/support of new participants before the event. Starting from a certain amount of conducted events discounts are offered. Thus, we have 175 euro (+75 euro for tehnical support) per 1 hour (2 languages, 50 attendees) and 475 euro (+600 euro for technical support) per day.

Ablioconference offer the following prices: 50 USD is the subscription fee, 100 USD for each language booth (2 languages) and 1.5 USD for an attendee per day, no hourly rates are applicable. These are the prices for 1 day of the event (multiple sessions are possible within 24 hours). Starting from the 2nd day discounts are offered. Technical support costs 45 USD per hour. Thus, we have 225 USD (+360 for technical support) for 1 day, 2 languages and 50 attendees and 225 USD (+45 for technical support) for 1 hour.

Rafiki prices are as follows: 310 euro per 1 hour (2 languages, 50 attendees) and 660 euro per 1 day. Rafiki also has package subscription offers. The cost for technical support is not available since they did not answer my last e-mail.

RSI platforms

Parameters

QuaQua Ablioconference Rafiki Webswitcher
Interface for event’s participants (yes/no) Yes No Yes No
Default number of video and audio channels 2 2 Upon request Upon request
Relay Yes Yes Yes Yes
Handover Yes Yes Yes Yes
Possibility to listen to the floor and your partner simultaneously Yes Yes Yes Yes
Response to requests 1 day 1 day 1 day 2 days
Onboarding Demo-session at the platform, profile on the website Form on the website, sending the documents, test, training on the platform Form on the website, CV, training on the platform N/A
Tech support Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mobile application No No No N/A
Price (1 hour) 250 euro 270 USD 310 euro (without tech support) N/A
Price (1 day) 1075 euro 585 USD 660 euro (without tech support) N/A

Table 1. RSI platforms: prices.

The author

Natalia Fedorenkova, Lomonosov State Moscow University Alumnus (2007), 2007-2017 In-House Interpreter (Gazprom, McDermott); since 2017 — Freelance Conference Interpreter. Since 2019 — Remote Simultaneous Interpreter with Interprefy. Speaker at III Global Dialogue International Forum of Conference Interpreters. Organizer of RSI Webinars for Interpreters and Business.

Website: www.natfedorenkova.ru/en/;

E-mail: nat.fedorenkova@gmail.com;

Phone: +79035546725.

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