Google teaches ma­chines to be­come flu­ent trans­la­tors

Google com­mits to post-Brexit UK

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is promis­ing that its widely used trans­la­tion ser­vice is now even more flu­ent, thanks to an ad­vance that’s en­abling its com­put­ers to in­ter­pret com­plete sen­tences. That may sound sim­ple, but it took years of en­gi­neer­ing to pull off. Un­til now, Google’s tech­nol­ogy an­a­lyzed phrases in pieces and then cob­bled to­gether a some­times stilted trans­la­tion. Now that Google’s ma­chines can in­ter­pret en­tire sen­tences, the trans­la­tions of ex­tended pas­sages of text should read and sound much more like a na­tive speaker of the lan­guage.

The tech­nol­ogy, dubbed “neu­ral ma­chine trans­la­tion,” is sim­i­lar to what Google has been us­ing for the past few years to iden­tify peo­ple and ob­jects in pic­tures stored in its Pho­tos ser­vice. Google de­scribed its neu­ral ma­chine tool as the big­gest leap for its trans­la­tion ser­vice in a decade. For­rester Re­search an­a­lyst Mike Gualtieri also be­lieves Google’s new method is a sig­nif­i­cant break­through, al­though he said he ex­pects it to make some po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing mis­takes in its early stages, much like the Pho­tos ser­vice misiden­ti­fied some things when it first rolled out.

“I doubt it will be trans­lat­ing like the com­put­ers on ‘Star Trek’ quite yet,” Gualtieri said. Start­ing Tues­day, the tech­nol­ogy is be­ing be used to trans­late phrases to and from English and eight other lan­guages - French, Ger­man, Span­ish, Por­tuguese, Chi­nese, Ja­panese, Korean and Turk­ish. Those lan­guages cover about one-third of all the trans­la­tion re­quests that Google gets. It says that on av­er­age it trans­lates about 140 bil­lion words per day for the more than 500 mil­lion peo­ple who use the ser­vice. Google, part of Al­pha­bet Inc, even­tu­ally hopes to ap­ply the neu­ral ma­chine tech­nol­ogy on all 103 lan­guages in its trans­la­tion ser­vice.

Vote of con­fi­dence

In an­other devel­op­ment, Google de­liv­ered a vote of con­fi­dence in Lon­don’s fu­ture as a tech­no­log­i­cal hub after the Brexit vote on Tues­day by an­nounc­ing plans for a new build­ing in the King’s Cross area of the city that will house thou­sands of ex­tra en­gi­neers. Google’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Sun­dar Pichai said com­puter sci­ence had a great fu­ture in Bri­tain, cit­ing the tal­ent pool, ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, and pas­sion for in­no­va­tion present in the coun­try. “That’s why we are in­vest­ing in Lon­don in both en­gi­neer­ing tal­ent and in­fra­struc­ture,” he said. The 10-storey build­ing, Google’s first wholly owned and de­signed out­side the United States, will in­crease its pres­ence in King’s Cross to more than 1 mil­lion square feet, enough for more than 7,000 em­ploy­ees in to­tal, the com­pany said.

Google has 5,700 em­ploy­ees and con­trac­tors in the UK, in­clud­ing about 2,000 en­gi­neers housed in the re­cently opened build­ing in King’s Cross where Pichai an­nounced the ex­pan­sion. Pichai, who be­came CEO in Oc­to­ber 2015 when par­ent com­pany Al­pha­bet Inc was cre­ated, said he was op­ti­mistic about Bri­tain’s fu­ture, de­spite the un­cer­tainty caused by June’s vote to leave the European Union. “His­tor­i­cally, the UK has been an open and con­nected econ­omy, and like a lot of busi­nesses we are proud of and rely on the fact that we re­cruit the best tal­ent from around world,” he said. “We are op­ti­mistic that this sit­u­a­tion will con­tinue.”

“We un­der­stand there is un­cer­tainty and even con­cerns about top­ics like Brexit and the pace of tech­no­log­i­cal change in our times, but we know for cer­tain that web and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy will be an en­gine of growth for the UK for years to come.” Bri­tish Fi­nance Min­is­ter Philip Ham­mond said the in­vest­ment showed lead­ing firms were still choos­ing to in­vest in Bri­tain, while the Mayor of Lon­don Sadiq Khan said in­flows re­main “ro­bust” post-Brexit. “Lon­don isn’t just the tech cap­i­tal of Europe, we are on the shoul­der of New York and we are catch­ing up with Sil­i­con Val­ley,” Khan said at the event. “In­vest­ment into the cap­i­tal post-Brexit re­mains ro­bust, so Google’s ex­pan­sion will fur­ther strengthen our city’s rep­u­ta­tion as a global leader in dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy.” Pichai made ref­er­ence in his speech to an­other event that ex­posed a di­vi­sion in a west­ern so­ci­ety: the US elec­tion. “Re­cent events, in­clud­ing the elec­tion in the US, have clearly sur­faced chal­lenges with in­equal­ity and peo­ple feel­ing marginal­ized,” he said. These were “long-term and dif­fi­cult” prob­lems to solve, he said, but it was his hope that Google would play a con­struc­tive role in ad­dress­ing some of these chal­lenges. The com­pany, along with Face­book, on Mon­day an­nounced mea­sures aimed at halt­ing the spread of “fake news” on the in­ter­net by tar­get­ing how some pur­vey­ors of phony con­tent make money: ad­ver­tis­ing.


CAL­I­FOR­NIA: A man rides a bike past a Google sign at the Google­plex in Menlo Park, Cal­i­for­nia.

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