Microsoft/Windows

Microsoft Demonstrates Breakthrough Language Translation Sofware

Microsoft Demonstrates Breakthrough Language Translation Sofware
November 10, 2012 9:15AM

Bookmark and Share
"We may not have to wait until the 22nd century for a usable equivalent of Star Trek's universal translator, and we can also hope that as barriers to understanding language are removed, barriers to understanding each other might also be removed," said Rick Rashid, Microsoft's Chief Research Officer.

APC has an established a reputation for solid products that virtually pay for themselves upon installation. Who has time to spend worrying about system downtime? APC makes it easy for you to focus on business growth instead of business downtime with reliable data center systems and IT solutions. Learn more here.

Microsoft is taking speech recognition where no man has gone before. Rick Rashid, Microsoft's Chief Research Officer, recently offered a demonstration in Tianjin, China at the Microsoft Research Asia's 21st Century Computing event.

During his demonstration, Rashid showcased the latest results of a breakthrough in collaborative research between Microsoft and the University of Toronto--reducing the error rate for speech by more than 30 percent compared to older methods. That, explained Rashid, means that instead of having one word in every four or five incorrect, the error rate is only one wrong word in every seven or eight.

"While still far from perfect, this is the most dramatic change in accuracy since the introduction of hidden Markov modeling in 1979," Rashid wrote in a blog post, "and as we add more data to the training we believe that we will get even better results."

English to Chinese in Your Own Voice

Rashid's presentation also demonstrated how Microsoft takes the text that represents his speech and runs it through translation. Specifically, he turned his English into Chinese in two steps. The system first took his words and found the Chinese equivalents, which he called the hard part. The second step reorders the words to be appropriate for Chinese.

"Of course, there are still likely to be errors in both the English text and the translation into Chinese, and the results can sometimes be humorous," Rashid said. "Still, the technology has developed to be quite useful."

Rashid magnified Microsoft's achievement of enabling an English speaker to present in Chinese in his or her own voice. That feat required a text-to-speech system that Microsoft researchers built using a few hours of speech from a native Chinese speaker and properties of his voice taken from an hour of pre-recorded English speeches.

Star Trek-Like Capabilities

"Though it was a limited test, the effect was dramatic, and the audience came alive in response," Rashid said. "When I spoke in English, the system automatically combined all the underlying technologies to deliver a robust speech to speech experience -- my voice speaking Chinese."

Rashid admits that the results are still not perfect and that there is still much work to be done, but he and others hope that in a few years Microsoft will have systems that can completely break down language barriers.

"In other words, we may not have to wait until the 22nd century for a usable equivalent of Star Trek's universal translator, and we can also hope that as barriers to understanding language are removed, barriers to understanding each other might also be removed," Rashid said. "The cheers from the crowd of 2000 mostly Chinese students, and the commentary that's grown on China's social media forums ever since, suggests a growing community of budding computer scientists who feel the same way."

We turned to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, about the innovative research. He told us real-time translation has been a struggle because it requires a lot of processing power. But Microsoft is making strong strides.

"With real-time translation, suddenly you can now go places and ask questions and the other person will understand you," Enderle said. "Sentence structure is often very different and so translation can be very difficult as well. The system has to listen to the entire series of words before it can provide an accurate translation. That requires a substantial amount of processing power. But we're closer now than many of us thought."

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

Travis:

Posted: 2012-11-15 @ 5:52am PT
great article



 Microsoft/Windows
1. Lenovo Still in Small Windows Tablets
2. How Chrome Eats Your Battery Life
3. Are These Layoffs Best for Microsoft?
4. Microsoft Axes Android Phones
5. Microsoft Will Lay Off 18,000 Workers




 Most Popular Articles
1. IBM Earmarks $3B for Next-Gen Cloud Computing Chips
2. Microsoft Targets CRM in Government Cloud
3. Amazon Unveils Zocalo for Cloud-Based Collaboration
4. Google CEO: Is the 40-Hour Workweek Really Necessary?
5. More Than Half of Networks Not Ready for Internet of Things

Have an informed opinion on this story?
Send a Letter to the Editor.
We want to know what you think.
Send us your Feedback.

 Related Topics  Latest News & Special Reports

  Lenovo Still in Small Windows Tablets
  How Chrome Eats Your Battery Life
  Cisco Woos More Devs with DevNet
  Investor Wants EMC To Spin Off VMware
  Schools Buy Million Chromebooks in Q2

 Technology Marketplace
Big Data
Unlock your enterprise data's potential. Learn how in the research report.
Are you getting everything you can out of your business data?
 
Business Intelligence
Get real-time, cloud-based information services with Neustar.
 
CIO Issues
Secure and retain skilled technology professionals. Learn how.
 
Cloud Computing
Are you getting everything you can out of your business data?
 
Data Storage
Unlock your enterprise data's potential. Learn how in the research report.
 
Enterprise Hardware
Protect your network with APC Smart-UPS battery backup
Cisco UCS Invicta Series flash memory systems
 
Enterprise I.T.
Register for an upcoming ISACA® certification exam today
Secure and retain skilled technology professionals. Learn how.
 
Enterprise Software
Unlock your enterprise data's potential. Learn how in the research report.
 
Hardware
Protect your network with APC Smart-UPS battery backup
Ferocious productivity. A fearless team of pros. Find Out More
Cisco UCS Invicta Series flash memory systems
 
Network Security
Protect your network with APC Smart-UPS battery backup
 
Small Business
Ferocious productivity. A fearless team of pros. Find Out More