Japanese wireless carrier NTT Docomo is moving to the next step in the development of its nearly real-time voice translator for mobile phones. TechCrunch reports that the carrier has opened up the service, which currently only translates between Japanese and English, to 400 testers yesterday and is slated for launch next year. According to NTT Docomo, the service is now operating with 90 percent accuracy in Japanese recognition and 80 percent accuracy with spoken English — a significant improvement from its already-impressive demo back in May.

For those not familiar with the service, it operates with heavy support from the cloud; voice input is sent to remote servers and translated, and then sent back down to the device in both text and voice form. The translation service can work over live phone calls, as well as between two people who are face-to-face. It all looks very promising (take a look at the video below), and even more so because of how soon it will be available to NTT Docomo's 56 million subscribers. We know Google has been working on a service like this, but right now it's only available as an "experimental" feature of the Google Translate app for Android.