Microsoft Translator added another dozen languages and dialects to its library this week, giving the service more than 100 languages in total. More than 5.66 billion people are now expected to be able to understand the texts and documents processed by the translator, including Uyghur, Macedonian, two forms of Mongolian and the Inuktitut dialect of the Inuktut language spoken by the Inuit.
Encompassing over 100 languages and dialects, Microsoft has gone far beyond the most commonly spoken languages such as English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. Only 40,000 Inuit in Canada speak Inuktitut, for example. Azure Cognitive Services also manages AI models for optical character recognition (OCR), so any written text can be absorbed and translated into any of the supported languages. Google beat Microsoft in 2016, but Amazon trails at 71 languages. Microsoft says it has an edge over competitors with its artificial intelligence techniques, which power Translator in the mobile app, Microsoft Office, Bing and Azure’s enterprise services.
“One hundred languages is a good step for us to achieve our ambition that everyone can communicate regardless of the language they speak,” said Xuedong Huang, chief technology officer of Microsoft Azure AI. “Not only are we celebrating what we’ve done in translation – reaching 100 languages – but also in speech and OCR. We want to remove language barriers.
Speech and text translation is an extremely popular aspect of voice AI development. Google recently released Translatotron 2.0, a new version of its model that recreates a speaker’s voice in a different language, which will likely inform future versions of Google Translate and its real-time transcription and instant translation feature for Google Assistant. on Android. Alexa has had real-time translation as a feature since late last year, expanding the multilingual mode that Alexa has opened up to new languages. Translation services are also what motivated Zoom to acquire Kites as it strives to make business communications as universal as possible, without language limitations holding them back.
Microsoft Translator recently updated its own app, offering optional regional accents. The Speech Regions feature allows users to adjust how the text-to-speech voice speaks words to match different common variations based on location. English has American, British, Australian, Canadian, Irish and Indian flavors, while Spanish has voices originating from Mexico and Spain.
Microsoft’s multilingual AI model known as Z-code combines multiple languages based on language families so models can learn from each other. French, Spanish and Italian models could all teach themselves because they are from the Romance family, for example. This drastically reduces the amount of data needed for a good translation, making the process faster and more accurate when there isn’t a huge dictionary or the language is at risk. Microsoft combines Z code with its other AI language technologies to form what the company calls its vision for XYZ code.
“We can take advantage of the commonalities and use this shared transfer learning capability to improve the whole language family,” Huang said. “It brings people together. This is the capacity already in production thanks to our vision of the XYZ code.
Microsoft Translator adds regional accents
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