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Japan Cellphones Handhelds Software

One Step Toward a Babel Fish: Real-Time Voice Translation For Phones 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-said-what? dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "Douglas Adams's fictional Babel fish, which lived in the brain and could translate any language in the universe, was so incredibly useful that it simultaneously proved and disproved the existence of God. This real-time translation app for mobile phones, offered by the Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo, isn't going to freak out theologians any time soon. The company admits it has lots of work to do to improve translation accuracy, and it can currently only translate between Japanese and three languages: English, Korean, and Mandarin. But by allowing phone calls to pierce the language barrier, we just might have taken a step toward the universe that Adams envisioned: one where open communication between people of different cultures leads to an onslaught of terrible bloody warfare."
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One Step Toward a Babel Fish: Real-Time Voice Translation For Phones

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  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:35AM (#41999049)

    When machines start translating languages on the fly, people will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

    Right now, English is the de-facto lingua franca of the world, because peoples need to talk to each other for business purposes. I reckon that need alone goes a long way to (mostly) maintain world peace, because when someone learns a foreign language, they're also exposed to a foreign culture. Machine translators don't expose those who use them to other cultures.

    • by AchilleTalon (540925) on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:46AM (#41999089) Homepage
      Well, the only problem is everyone has to learn English and its culture, but no one from English speaking countries really need to learn others languages and cultures. So, it's not exactly a good thing neither.
      • by Cryacin (657549) on Friday November 16, 2012 @02:22AM (#41999373)
        No, they don't need to learn other languages. THEY JUST NEED TO SPEAK ENGLISH LOUDER!!!
        • No, they don't need to learn other languages. THEY JUST NEED TO SPEAK ENGLISH LOUDER and sl-ow-er!!!

          Here, fixed that for you

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You can learn culture independently of language.

        I've an interest in several cultures but have no desire to learn their languages.

        • Cant see how. Or very incompletely. Have you got any language besides English? (not trolling, I'm trying to see if your comment is biased in a way or another)
          • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday November 16, 2012 @06:05AM (#41999995) Homepage

            Cant see how.

            Agree. In any pair of languages there's a lot of words/phrases which simply can't be translated without cultural references.

            This is where machines can't help (in fact they'll probably make things worse). Automatic translation is a noble goal but I don't think it can ever be a substitute for the real thing where there's a big difference in culture.

            It can work for limited cases of course: eg. The language needed for ordering 10,000 widgets by next Tuesday should be machine-translatable. OTOH the small-talk most salesmen engage in before the sale will probably lead to global warfare if attempted.

            • Zinda, his face black, his eyes red. Kadir beneath Mo Moteh.

              Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Sokath, his eyes opened.

          • also agree. try jewish and israeli culture. there are words and phrases in hebrew that have no translation to anything in english. this ac is hopelessly clueless. also, what kind of interest do you think you have in a culture when you don't care to learn the language? if you love japanese culture you don't just read manga and play jrpgs.

            my sister loves the japanese culture and besides learning to draw anime she took kendo sword fighting classes, japanese history classes, learned to speak japanese (and sp
        • So I think you'll never fully appreciate the culture.

          For instance, you can't really understand the japanese language different modes unless you learn the social context they're expected to be used. And vice-versa.

      • by wmac1 (2478314)

        Why everyone needs to learn English? If there is a decent real time translator, it can translate their language to English. For books and publications assuming there is a really good translator, it should not be a problem.

        I also dislike that. I know 7-8 languages (fluent in 4 of them) and it has been a hobby and interest for me to learn languages.

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          Why everyone needs to learn English? If there is a decent real time translator, it can translate their language to English. For books and publications assuming there is a really good translator, it should not be a problem.

          And they will all sount like retards to English speakers because most translators are not smarter than authors they are translating. With machine translation it's even worse.

        • it has been a hobby and interest for me to learn languages.

          So how is this translator existing going to impact that? It isn't. People with a desire to broaden their world view will always learn about languages and cultures different from their own. People with no desire won't. I don't see how this will radically change that. The people who are going to use this for basic communication probably weren't going to take the several years of time it takes to learn a foreign language in the first place.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:58AM (#41999121)

      I disagree. It was because I was able to access content in my native language that I was more interested in learning about the culture of other countries. The easier it is to communicate with foreign people, the easier it is to learn about their culture. I really dislike the narrow-minded view that a nation's culture is only accessible through its native language. (I live in Quebec)

      15 years ago, I saw Akira in English. Throughout the years, I saw more Japanese animations, I read manga, I read documentaries, I learned some of the words and some of the characters. I also read a little about the history. I watched documentaries, etc. All of these things, all in English, they made a foreign culture more accessible to me, they allowed me to understand Japan a little better even if I couldn't speak the language.

      If one day I can converse with someone that speaks a foreign language and share with him or her our culture without having language be a barrier, that would be very good. Isn't that exactly what Star Trek showed us? The universal translator broke down the barrier of language, so that different species could share their own culture more easily, more freely.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I reckon that need alone goes a long way to (mostly) maintain world peace, because when someone learns a foreign language, they're also exposed to a foreign culture.

      Hogwash. Wars exist because they serve someone's interests (be it to sell weapons, to expand borders or to keep the people occupied). Although it's preferable to know the enemy's culture it isn't necessary.

      Would you feel the same way if the lingua franca were some dialect of Mandarin instead of English?

      • Hogwash. Wars exist because they serve someone's interests (be it to sell weapons, to expand borders or to keep the people occupied).

        Yes, but if you understand each other's culture, you can more often find a way to meet everyone's interests without starting a war.

        I'll give you an example I heard from Bob Woodward....During the Falkland's war, Argentina was more aggressive than they should have been, in part because the people thought America would be on their side (for various reasons). However, he met some people who had lived as foreign exchange students in America, and those people realized America would not help Argentina. If more

        • Interesting, but WTF??!!
          USA and UK are both in the NATO. Only the pride of the UK prevented them to call for a NATO 'stage of war'.
          According to the NATO treaty, two members are asked not war each other. There was no way that the USA would have supported Argentinia, and I can't believe any Argentinian polititian thought so.
          Argentina rather thought that no sane Nation would go to war for 3000 people and 100k sheeps.

          I mean in modern times they new everything about the royal navy, when they departed, when they

          • There was no way that the USA would have supported Argentinia, and I can't believe any Argentinian polititian thought so.

            It's an old Argentine view, that the US will stand up for what is right, just like they defended the Unitarios when they were being slaughtered. This goes back before NATO, back to the 1800s.

            Maybe the leaders didn't think it would happen. Maybe they were looking to distract the people from the real problems by picking a fight with the British. That is also an old Argentine tradition. Lately, they especially like blaming rich people for their problems, and promising to help out the poor.

            • The USA fucked up all of thouth america and did it all,over again seceral times.

              Alos there is no right ofArgentinia to the Falklands whatsoever.

              The idea that it belongs to Argentinia is completely retarded, comsidering its population is british, and always was.

              It is not like it once was Argentinian and got lost/conquered. It always was british in recent history and never was argentinian anway.

              On top of that it is like 450km away from the Argentinian coast, what the hell! How do they come to the braindead id

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:11AM (#41999155)

      When machines start translating languages on the fly, people will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

      Good machine translation is a big help when learning a foreign language, so this might encourage more people to give it a try. I use Chrome's speech-to-text to practice speaking Mandarin. It is not a complete substitute for an actual Mandarin speaking human, but a human isn't always available. Maybe the technology in TFA could be adapted to language learners, and let them know when their pronunciation is a little off, and guide them toward clearer expressions.

    • by mjwx (966435)
      I think this is what is going to work as well as they think is unlikely. If you try to translate your post from English to Japanese and back again, just for a while, we had a machine translation of the text.
      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Using google translate: This paragraph is written in English, translated to Japanese and back to English to illustrate the previous post This translated into a paragraph, in order to explain the previous articles that have been written in English, Japanese and back to English. You know what? Given enough text, I still would find the result of the English retranslation more useful than a human written version of the Japanese.
    • Right now, you have to learn another language if you want exposure to people from foreign cultures. This will lower that barrier.

    • by JanneM (7445)

      So... By that logic native English speakers are the cause of most breaches of world peace, and should therefore all be forced to learn and use a second language?

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Learning another language is anyway a good idea. It gives you the idea what a non-English speaker goes through to learn English.

        Living in Hong Kong I often talk to Chinese about them speaking English. Many are worried that they make mistakes when they talk in English to foreigners - especially native speakers (from e.g. UK, US, Australia, etc).

        So then I usually tell them not to worry, for the simple reason that they themselves are already much better with their languages than the English speaker. They are C

        • So English speakers should learn to speak another language so that they can learn what it's like to learn to speak another language... that's sound logic if I've ever heard it.

        • One of the reasons English has become a world language is that it is relatively easy to make yourself understood even if you speak it badly.

          For some bizarre reason it doesn't seem to matter what your subset of the language is or how bad your accent is, it is usually possible to find enough common words to get your point across.

          Whether this is because of the multiple language base, the almost non-existant grammar (as compared, say, to Latin) or the constant borrowing from other languages I don't know, but it

          • by wvmarle (1070040)

            Over the past decade I've learned quite some Cantonese (said to be much harder to learn than Mandarin, except Cantonese is the local language here). The tones are of course the hardest part for us westerners: it's something we don't use that way. Different tone = different meaning, possibly opposite, totally different, or slightly different (e.g. the difference between "today" and "tomorrow" is just the tone). Yet grammar is dead easy, and getting a (simple) message across usually works.

            It is more like that

    • ...because when someone learns a foreign language, they're also exposed to a foreign culture.

      Personally, I doubt I'd be exposing myself to Korean culture if I didn't have access to almost real-time human translations of Korean movies and TV dramas. [viki.com]

    • by citizenr (871508) on Friday November 16, 2012 @02:25AM (#41999383) Homepage

      When machines start translating languages on the fly, people will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

      I TOTALLY AGREE, just like written word made humans stop remembering things!

      • I TOTALLY AGREE, just like written word made humans stop remembering things!

        Well, honestly, it did. How many phone numbers do you remember now, compared to 15 years ago?

        Similarly, I've taught people who are illiterate, who do much better at remembering things.

    • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki @ g m a i l . com> on Friday November 16, 2012 @02:41AM (#41999443) Homepage

      When machines start translating languages on the fly, people will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

      That's not really true. I can speak English, German, a good bit of Japanese( know about 40% of the syntax). But it'll probably take me another 3 years or so to learn it. My uncle who travels to Japan regularly for work can't grasp it, can't wrap his head around it. . He struggled with english. Though his job requires him to be able to travel all around the world fixing million dollar machinery, setting it up, tearing it down and doing repairs.

      Luckily in every place he's been, people have been exceptionally accommodating of this, especially in places where no one speaks english. Even if he could learn the language of wherever he was going, there's no way he'd be able to learn and grasp 90+ languages. And while english is the defacto business language(and it's taught pretty much everywhere) that doesn't stop cultural cross-communication issues either.

      Machine language translations are a good way to allow people to talk, for those that can't, or unable to grasp another language. And it does get harder as you get older, and not everyone is lucky enough to live in a multilingual country or city-state like Singapore.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        And it does get harder as you get older, and not everyone is lucky enough to live in a multilingual country or city-state like Singapore.

        Interestingly I have the exact opposite experience.

        In my early 30s I started learning Cantonese seriously, considered one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn.

        Yet I found it easier, and learned much faster, than the English, German and French that I learned back in secondary school (I'm a Dutch native so English and particularly German are relatively easy).

        Reason is of course not age, it's interest. Living in a place where the whole world around you speaks Cantonese is a great motivator. An

    • by Askmum (1038780)

      When machines start translating languages on the fly, people will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

      Right now, English is the de-facto lingua franca of the world, because peoples need to talk to each other for business purposes. I reckon that need alone goes a long way to (mostly) maintain world peace, because when someone learns a foreign language, they're also exposed to a foreign culture. Machine translators don't expose those who use them to other cultures.

      Why not? If I go to China, I can't communicate. So my exposure to the culture is minimal, it's limited to what I see. When I understand what people are saying, I get a lot more cultural information. And then I'm not even talking about apprehension to go to a country I don't know the language for.

      But it does make me wonder. Babelfish, Star Trek universal translator: how do these things cope with languages that don't have the same syntax? "Alea iacta est". That's a bit hard to translate on the fly. You'll ne

    • Well if the translating machine works as "well" as Google Translate, the other listening party may feel insulted at times!
      • by fatphil (181876)
        In my experience, about 90% of the time I'm left confused. The output is almost always meaningless. For it to be coherently insulting would require a bizarre fluke of clarity.

        As a concrete example, Google will translate the local "no" word, which has no alternative meanings, into "yes", "no", and "maybe". Bizarrely, it usually also wants to translate "Estonia" or "Finland" into "England". This is so broken that it's worse than useless. Google should be ashamed of it.
    • > English is the de-facto lingua franca of the world

      Haha, you obviously haven't worked in Japan.
      Even when I am working at a US or German based multinational, this is Japan, the employees are Japanese, and by god, everything will be done in Japanese.
      I don't see anything wrong with this, however - because it's the same as the US branch of a French company I worked at where everyone wanted to do everything in English.

      Either way, the people had the will and the power to use their local language.
      Countries tha

      • by Shadow99_1 (86250)

        Um you do realize that Japanese schools teach english right? Most Japanese people have at least spent 3 years (sometimes 6) learning english before they even get to the college level. Now most learn from other Japanese people so their accent sucks (hence the term 'engrish'), but most of the people who have gone through Japanese schools since the 50's have some concept of english...

        Now obviously in atypical workday where everyone is natively similar I'd expect them to speak Japanese rather than bad english a

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          That they are taught it in school doesn't mean they WANT to learn it. And as you say, most of them will never use English out of school. And then it's really quickly forgotten - a foreign language you must continue to use or you lose it.

          • by PRMan (959735)
            I learned 2 years of Spanish in high school (over 25 years ago) and I still remember enough to follow Spanish conversations by picking up every second or third word.
    • by leuk_he (194174)

      Right now, English is the de-facto lingua franca of the world, ...
      wait.... what? First of all..
      "de-facto lingua franca" does not pass my spell check. Second, it might be your working language in your reference, but in other area's there might be other languages more appropriate . Spanish and Portuguese might be an example of this.

      If your options are between sign language and automated translation i pick automated translation.

      And learning the other language is not always a advantage. I learned German and F

    • by Alioth (221270)

      That'll be a long way off. Until machines have sufficient AI to understand context well, machine translation (even good machine translation) will be clumsy. You'll speak, your translator will have to listen to the whole sentence (due to things like word ordering differences between different languages, it can't really start to translate halfway through in many cases), then repeat what you said to the other person. He speaks and the process repeats. The conversation goes at a fraction of the speed of even so

      • Used Google translate app on my phone with the Japaneses in laws. It worked a treat. Short direct sentences requiring short direct answers. What business meeting wouldn't you love to have just that. Hours reduced to minutes ust to get round the "short fall" of the app not being able to translate utter shit.
    • I reckon that need alone goes a long way to (mostly) maintain world peace, because when someone learns a foreign language, they're also exposed to a foreign culture.

      sarcasm on

      Oh that must be why the native americans have no beef with us. You know, because we took their kids from them and shoved english down their figurative throats. No beef there at all.

      sarcasm off

    • "de-facto lingua franca"

      Interesting choice of words to assert that English is the supreme language for international communication. Not that I completely disagree with you major point as stated, but interesting in its own right that merely one language was not enough to express the same idea.

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      When machines start translating languages on the fly, people will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

      Also, when automobiles start moving people and goods over long distances, people will stop riding horses, and that's a bad thing.

    • by jonadab (583620)
      > When machines start translating languages on the fly, people
      > will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

      Relax. When they figure out how to make a machine that can translate from Japanese to English (or vice versa) and have the results be even remotely intelligible (nevermind about grammatically correct or accurate), we won't *need* humans any more, because the machines will be able to do everything for themselves, including fine art and great literature.
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:37AM (#41999061)

    The name brings back sweet memories to the first useful translation service on the web: babelfish.altavista.com, launched almost 15 years ago. The domain still works, but the fish has been gobbled up by Microsoft and it's redirecting to Microsoft's translation service.

    Of course Digital also got their name from Douglas Adams' masterpiece.

    • but the fish has been gobbled up by Microsoft and it's redirecting to Microsoft's translation service.

      Which might not be so bad, since Ms has been demoing some interesting on-the-fly translation [newscientist.com] recently.

      (Yes, Ms is still evil, but their research department produces some interesting stuff now and then.)

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Well MS is a huge company, and (used to, at least) hire all the top graduates from top universities. They definitely have the cash to rake in all the talent they can get. There must be plenty of brainpower in their ranks. It's actually surprising how little comes out of it. Can't think of anything other than bad management.

  • It isn't a step towards the babel fish at all. The babel fish delivered brain waves directly to the speach center of the listening person thus needed no knowledge of the language being spoken or received. Simply processing one understood language to another is not any sort of step towards a babel fish.
    • Any linguists on the premises may feel free to crush me like a bug; but my naive impression would be that the details of tickling a target's language-related neural structures would depend on what language(s) they know, and (while doing it that way would be much cooler than just dumping it thorugh text-to-speech) you would still have to run a conversion between the spoken language and the language-specific neural interface format for the target, you wouldn't gain access to some sort of all-purpose metalangu

      • by Anonymous Coward
        I don't know enough to confirm that, but I would be somewhat surprised if the brain-waves related to the same concept in two different people had any simple relation whether or not they spoke the same language. I would expect a brain interface dealing with concepts to have to learn how to interface with each individual's brain separately (my understanding is that our current brain interface technology for doing things like moving a mouse cursor require a learning stage before they are usable).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not to mention the article is talking about computers! It's not even a fish!!

  • Well, though the input versatility and the accuracy may need work, by having it translate into two of the three most-spoken languages they're at least a step ahead of Professor Farnsworth [youtube.com].

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:01AM (#41999129)
    Slashdot likes to look at projects with potential but the only potential for this project is for a lead article in Popular Mechanics. If you try and use any device like this in real life you will just end up with a sushi chef having a crap in your salad seeing that you just offered him $500,000 to have a dump in the house salad. When you actually said "Fine, bread and house salad it is, and could I have a dumpling on the side?"

    And when the cops come don't be surprised when they tazer you for what you called their mothers.
    • by azalin (67640)
      That reminds me of the Monty Python episode with the manipulated dictionary. Wonderful idea.
    • I heard that an English to Russian translation program once translated "Out of sight, out of mind" as "Invisible idiot."

      This will remain the standard until computers have beaten the far more fantastic goal of basically understanding what we are actually saying; this way they will not only transliterate or translate phrases but intent. Thus a hard NO in English will become a culturally face saving no when translated to Japanese.
  • Morons (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:52AM (#41999273)

    The Babelfish lived in your ear, not your brain.

  • I was working on contract with the dominant Japanese phone manufacturer that supplied NTT DoCoMo. The same concept (pipe dream) was discussed then and we all knew that simultaneous translation of Japanese (insert language) would be here about the same time we all get our flying cars.

    Anyone who speaks Japanese knows the Grand Canyon-esque gap in context and meaning between spoken, informal Japanese and slang and idiom-ridden English.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Any American who's been to Australia or the U.K. knows the Grand Canyon-esque gap in context and meaning between their slang and idiom-ridden English and our slang and idiom-ridden English.

  • The Babelfish resided in the ear canal, ingested the thought waves created by the process of speaking, and excreted translations...

  • Come on. This is more along the lines of Star Trek's Universal Translator - which also happened to predate Adam's excellent stories by more than a decade.

    Not to mention there are probably even earlier science fiction stories that included similar tech.

    • by fatphil (181876)
      Indeed, and Adams had even already worked on a Sci-Fi/Fantasy program which featured universal - straight to the mind - translation: Doctor Who (the episode where this plot-line is first introduced certainly post-dates Star Trek, but the fact that he wrote for the program after that point gives him no plausible deniability). He borrowed an awful lot.

      And - OT - apart from Martin Freeman, the recent movie was PANTS!
    • by Cederic (9623)

      Yes, but a fish residing in your ear living off your brainwaves and paying its way by translating inbound sound is far more interesting and emotionally engaging than an electromechanical device that you have to carry around.

      Doesn't need its batteries changing either.

      Then consider this: People have experience of machine translation. It's surprisingly good, but despite that, it sucks.

      The Babel Fish works. Of course you're going to aspire towards it.

    • From: this article... [space.com]:
      "[T]he first science-fictional reference to the idea of automatic speech translation is found in Hugo Gernsback's 1911 classic Ralph 124c 41 +."

      Yeah. I never heard of it, either.

  • by aneroid (856995) <aneroid@NOspAm.gmail.com> on Friday November 16, 2012 @02:33AM (#41999417) Homepage Journal

    The real question is...would it correctly translate to and from "All your base are belong to us"?
    What is "correctly" in this case?

    • by Krneki (1192201)

      IT called context, and yes someday it will be able to do it better then the best human can do it.

      All in good time, all in good time.

      On a side note, on my last vacation we invited a couple of Russian for a drink in our apartment, one of them didn't speak s single word in English (very common for them) and with the help of google translate we were able to do some small talk.

      If this ain't progress I don't know what it is.

    • The real question is...would it correctly translate to and from "All your base are belong to us"?

      What is "correctly" in this case?

      All your secret are belong to us?

      DISCLAIMER: I have NOT read any of the EULA for their service, and this may be covered therein.

      <hat style="tinfoil"> An exaggeration, I know. Still, the cynic in me can't help but imagine that someone else has come up with the idea of using, say, a keyword list and filtering certain "interesting" communications aside for further scrut

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      You just pinpoint the one hardest point of translating: what is correct?

      Correct depends on the message context, the writer, and the audience. Different people use different words. Then there are of course these memes, there is jargon, slang, etc. A good translation is really difficult and while current computer translations are often pretty good, they're far from perfect.

      Use a phrase like "all your base are belong to us" or "do not want" and the average /. reader knows exactly what you mean, and you may eve

      • Translation: conversion from one language to another using local syntax. Things get "lost in translation" for one reason: some words do not "translate".
        Transliteration: conversion from one language to another using the syntax of the original language. Nothing gets lost, though this might get syntactically confusing (such as the "All your base" thing) because syntaxes are different across most languages.

        Example:

        Übersetzung: Konvertierung von einer Sprache in eine andere mithilfe von lokalen Syntax. Ding

  • Just a quick note - there is an error/typo in the description of the story. I think the period after Babel fish was intended to go at the end of the sentence.
  • Sklurb florp Jelfrop skanloop have a good time.
  • My guess is that when we get instant translators, what we will see is a cross pollination and eventual merging of the different languages. There are ideas that are hard to translate from one language to another. There just isn't an exact translation. So, if you get a sentence along the lines of "My girlfriend was feeling blatsbrigs last night." there would be no translation for blatsbrigs, so you would just use it untranslated to describe how my girlfriend was feeling. We see this all the time with fore
  • Douglas Adams thought that open communication between different languages and cultures would lead to terrible ongoing and widespread warfare. But I say he was a pessimist. And also unable to see the real world.

    You don't need open communication to lead to terrible ongoing and widespread warfare, we have that right now without the open communication!

    All we really need for war is a couple of people who decide that they would rather have the other person's stuff (or only one person deciding that). And for that

    • by azalin (67640)
      There is that joke, that in order to destroy humanity, all they had to do was to enable women to read men's minds.
  • Still, it was an impressive demonstration, and the team declared their determination (in grammatically correct and understandable English!) to improve translation precision.

    You think companies like Google aren't already trying to do this?
    The differences here are enormous. Simple grammatically correct syntax is easy to translate. Casual conversation filled with idioms and things is tough to translate even for humans who might have the cultural and contextual awareness that the machine lacks.

    You have two iss

  • Anyone who believes that machines can replace learning a language has clearly never left his country or spent more than a week abroad. There are technical and cultural issues that render such statements nonsense.

    Technical:
    - you need to speak like another machine for these systems to recognize what you say. Start putting some accent (like the different Latin-Spanish versions), or dialects (like in Germany or China), slang, and the model breaks quickly.
    - no system is able to mix languages. And you need this.

  • This is not a step, but a tiny tiptoe, if that. The best commercially-available voice recognition program (DNS) is capable of around 95% accuracy, but only if you have a high-quality mic, are in an otherwise silent environment, and speak clearly and evenly. With phones you're taking conversational voice sampled at very low bitrates with a variety of levels of background noise, which is going to severely impact the VR accuracy. You're then going to put that slightly mangled VR-generated text through a mach

  • My hovercraft is full of eeeeels!

    What? What word don't you understand?

  • The Babel Fish does not live in your brain, it lives in your ear.

    The Book (according to every version I've ever seen committed to film) shows a picture of a Babel fish in situ, inside the hosts ear.

    From THHGTTG:

    "The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly. - Henry Spencer, University of Toronto Unix hack

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