Advances in Google’s translation software could make the world a little smaller
The company is reengineering its translation service after Google researchers invented a system that is significantly more accurate. In a competition that pitted the new software against human translators, it came close to matching the fluency of humans for some languages, for example when translating English to Spanish or Portuguese.
Google has already begun rolling out the new system for translations from Chinese to English (see examples showing the improvement). The company expects to replace its current translation system altogether.
Making it easier to read webpages or exchange messages across language barriers could help people around the globe communicate with one another. Google researcher Quoc Le says Google’s big translation upgrade could also lead to improved relations between people and machines.
Google’s new translation system was built using a technique known as deep learning, which uses networks of math functions loosely inspired by studies of mammalian brains (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Deep Learning”). It triggered the recent flood of investment in artificial intelligence by producing striking progress in areas such as image and speech recognition.
Since 2014, researchers at Google have been investigating how deep learning might also deliver a shot in the arm to translation. Le says the latest results show that time has now come.