Google’s New Translation Tech Takes a Great Leap Forward

Say what? Machine-based translation still makes significant errors. But new techniques from Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are much better, as shown by a new Hostelworld chat tool based on the tech. Six months ago, Google began providing an enhanced online translation service for foreign language texts that has leapfrogged in fluency, accuracy, and speed over its previous service.

Google Translate says its service is improving more this year than in the last ten years combined.

Travel businesses gain

Slowly but surely, online travel sellers will soon see the benefits, as more accurate translations are enabling clearer communication and more bookings. A good example of a travel company using the new tech is Hostelworld, a hostel booking platform, which on Wednesday added a tool to its iOS and Android mobile app that relies on Google’s enhanced translation tool. Users pick a language, talk into their smartphone’s microphone, and then wait for words to be translated audibly and into text.

New technique

Google is the first of many tech companies to take advantage of so-called “neural machine translation,” which takes a fresh approach to the task of machine-based translations. Here’s an oversimplified explanation: The computer uses new methods to do translations in whole sentences, rather than word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase.

Researchers have always known that the “whole sentence approach” is more effective. But the problem has been that, up until now, it has taken computers too long to process the information.

The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning has made computers more nimble and enabled companies like Google to take advantage of the more effective technique.

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