Subscribe

Google adds 20 languages to instant virtual translation. How?

The search engine giant announced that it can now instantly translate 27 languages, "breaking down language barriers."

  • close
    In this June 2, 2015 file photo, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a ceremony announcing a $300 million expansion of Google's data center operations in Lithia Springs, Georgia.
    David Goldman/AP/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

On Wednesday, Google announced that users can now instantly translate printed text into a total of 27 languages.

The search engine giant added 20 languages to their instant virtual translation app, a big leap from the original seven languages (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish) people could use to instantly identify words in a foreign language. The updates to Google Translate will reach Android and iPhone devices in the next couple of days, according to a Google blog post

Additionally, if a user takes a photo of the text through camera mode, Google can translate the text into an additional 10 languages, for a total of 37.

Recommended: What Google's investments reveal about the company and the future

Google’s secret to recognizing this vast array of languages is hidden in deep neural networks, the same networks that create hallucinative images and eerie art. By teaming up with Quest Visual, Google was “able to work with some of the top researchers in deep learning,” according to Google’s research blog.

The images undergo a step-by-step process, which begins when the app finds letters in the image through identifying blocks of pixels with similar colors next to each other. If the blocks form a continuous line, then the app believes the pixels are most likely part of a word.

But in real life, handwritten letters aren’t perfect clean lines of unadulterated pixels. Oftentimes letters are sloppily written, slightly smudged, and have traces of dirt or food around them. In order to have the app still recognize imperfect letters, the Google team created ”all kinds of fake 'dirt' to convincingly mimic the noisiness of the real world,” according to Google’s blog post.

After the program has found the letters, it then looks up approximate definitions to find the correct word, but also to account for mistakes that the program might have made earlier in the process. For instance, a handwritten “s” could have been interpreted as a “5” in the translation process, but the program would still ultimately translate the mistaken “5uper” as “super.”

But not everyone has a data processing center with the capabilities of Google. In fact, most of the time the phones and laptops we use run far below that computing power. To counter that issue, Google had to develop a small neural net to limit the information density that the computer processor handles.

Recommended: The 5 best Google Doodle games ever

This recent advance marks an innovative application of neural networks to a commonly used and practical application.

“Sometimes new technology can seem very abstract, and it's not always obvious what the applications for things like convolutional neural nets could be," notes the Google research blog. "We think breaking down language barriers is one great use.” 

And Google promises that there more barriers to be broken:  "More than half of the content on the Internet is in English, but only around 20% of the world’s population speaks English. Today’s updates knock down a few more language barriers, helping you communicate better and get the information you need."

Follow CSMonitor's board Tech & Innovation on Pinterest.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK