Waverly Labs Forum Review: Impressive One-to-Many Voice Translation

No matter how many folks are listening, things are a lot better the fewer people that are talking. Waverly says as much itself. Some of the most impactful use cases, per the company, are polyglot shareholder meetings that allow analysts to listen to executive comments in their native language, and church services that can be delivered to a multilingual congregation. In both cases, the bulk of what is spoken is from just one person. Forum can also be effective for global teams that meet regularly over video chat, if the teams are small and have some base level of familiarity with one another. That can also help make those pregnant pauses a bit less awkward.

The quality of the interpretation is highly dependent on the clarity of the speaker, as with most voice translations. The more mush-mouthed someone is, the less coherent the translation will be. Forum also made some weird choices with some of its translations during my testing. One speaker made a reference to “one-to-one” meetings and Forum curiously translated this as “12:59.” Most of the time, though, I was at least able to get a strong sense of what was being said. Forum isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely good enough.

Courtesy of Waverly Labs

However, Forum is decidedly not cheap. The app requires a monthly subscription (with no long-term commitment) with several different tiers available, each offering a different number of total minutes and total number of participants in a session. For $25, you get 3 hours of interpretation for up to 5 participants. For $60, you get 10 hours with 20 participants, and $130 gets you 25 hours with 50 participants. If you need more beyond that, Waverly says it will set you up with a custom configuration.

There’s also a free tier, which is handy for very occasional users, offering 25 minutes a month for three participants. The free tier is also limited to 10 total sessions per month, while all the paid tiers include unlimited sessions. (Side note: Your minutes count only when you are actively speaking. Listeners don’t burn minutes listening to translated audio, and in fact you can use the app without even registering if you want to be just a passive listener and don’t ever plan to speak.)

If you just need occasional multi-speaker translations—and can persuade everyone in your group to download an app and join a session at the same time—Waverly Forum is a nice tool to have in your arsenal. The free version may be enough for most, and I expect most users who need the paid versions will have some kind of corporate support in covering its not-insignificant cost. At the highest level, a sustained subscription works out to more than $1,500 per year, which is a massive investment in something you don’t even own. And that’s per user.

Again, it’s important to stress that Forum is really built as a solution for multiple users, each with their own device. If you’re simply trying to catalyze a one-to-one—er, 12:59—bilingual conversation through a single device, it’s not a good fit.

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