The Translator is a small, handheld computer which allows the player to read various messages and events in the game by decipher notes, signs, and other items in different alien languages into Earth English, usually the languages of the Nali or the Skaarj. It is useful for proceeding through the game as many messages contain helpful hints and clues to puzzles. This is also the main way in which the story progresses due to a complete lack of dialogue or cutscenes besides the ending movie.
Every time the player comes in the vicinity of such an item, the device alerts the player of a new message with a sound. (These events are called "Translator Events" in the game's code.) The device is mapped to a shortcut key "F2", which shows the translated message in the device, or removes the message when pressed again.
It is first picked up on the first level of Unreal, Vortex Rikers. They were standard equipment for the guards onboard the ship. After you pick it up, it will be with you for the rest of the game with no need for replacements. It is also given to the player at the start of Return to Na Pali, also with no need for replacements.
- Originally, the Universal Translator would also read hint messages found throughout the game, but this feature didn't make the cut into the final game.