Google announces AI-powered Translate that ‘approaches’ the skill of humans

Google announced Tuesday it’s using a new automated translation system powered by artificial intelligence that can improve translation by up to 87 percent over its existing Translate system.

“Our… system approaches the accuracy achieved by average bilingual human translators on some of our test sets,” the Google research team behind the new technology said in a paper.

The “neural machine translation” technology, rolled out so far only in Chinese to English, improves accuracy by an average of 60 percent in converting English to Chinese, French and Spanish, and vice-versa, according to the paper published Monday by the Google researchers, who cited the support of both the Google Translate team and the cross-disciplinary “Google Brain” team.

The company, which launched Translate a decade ago, described the Chinese-to-English translation process as “notoriously difficult.”

At the base of the new process is its evaluation at a sentence level, rather than the current system’s words-and-phrases breakdown, Google said in a blog post Tuesday. The analysis is done by AI software that learns via “state-of-the-art” information inputs and its own processing.

However, while the new system represents a “significant milestone,” it could still commit “significant errors that a human translator would never make, like dropping words and mistranslating proper names or rare terms, and translating sentences in isolation rather than considering the context of the paragraph or page,” Google said.

The firm said it hoped in coming months to unveil “many more” language pairs beyond Chinese to English.


Photo: Two men walk past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View. (AP/Jeff Chiu)


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