Universal Text Translation Is the Next Milestone for AI

February 9, 2018

As the globe gets smaller, individuals are in more contact with people who don’t speak their language. Or, we are reading information written in a foreign language. Programs like Google Translate are flawed at best and it is clear this is a niche waiting to be filled. With the increase of AI, it looks like that is about to happen, according to a recent GCN article, “IARPA Contracts for Universal Text Translator.”

According to the article:

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is a step closer to developing a universal text translator that will eventually allow English speakers to search through multilanguage data sources — such as social media, newswires and press reports — and retrieve results in English.

 

The intelligence community’s research arm awarded research and performance monitoring contracts for its Machine Translation for English Retrieval of Information in Any Language program to teams headed by leading research universities paired with federal technology contractors.

 

Intelligence agencies, said IARPA project managers in a statement in late December, grapple with an increasingly multilingual, worldwide data pool to do their analytic work. Most of those languages, they said, have few or no automated tools for cross-language data mining.

This sounds like a very promising opportunity to get everyone speaking the same language. However, we think there is still a lot of room for error. We are hedging our bets on Unibabel’s AI translation software that is backed up by human editors. (They raised $23M, so they must be doing something right.) That human angle seems to be the hinge that will be a success for someone in this rich field.

Patrick Roland, February 9, 2018

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