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To Bot or not to Bot (IM Translation)

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To Bot or not to Bot (IM Translation)

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Did you know that MSN messenger recently became* is the number one instant messenger in the world? Last summer, thanks to the efforts of Helvecio on our team, the MTBot prototype project quietly launched – to provide a glimpse to the community of 28.6 million unique messenger users what might be possible when you combine machine translation technology with instant messaging.

The MTBot prototype project was released in May 2007 with the main goal to try to understand how useful  machine translation would be in IM conversations. The bot acts as a human translator, participating in conferences and translating messages as they are sent by all parties.

A typical usage scenario would be something like this: let's assume you have a friend in Japan that does not speak English... Well, you would add to your Live messenger buddy list, wait until the bot accepts your request (by switching status to Online) and then you would start your conversation by sending the "Hello" message... The Bot is going to wake up, and display a list of languages - enter "ja" for Japanese. Once it gets a valid connection the Bot will tell you to invite your friend to join the conversation. That's it... From this point on, everything you type will be translated from English to Japanese, and everything your friend types will be translated from Japanese to English.

Another typical use is as portable translator: using Messenger from any Smartphone a user can translate simple sentences when traveling to other countries.

MTBot conversation screenshot

MT bot prototype screenshot

As with any prototype effort, do keep in mind that this is experimental and there is a possibility the bot might be offline from time to time. The usual caveats about the quality of machine translation also apply.

We always appreciate your feedback and suggestions – so feel free to do so on this thread.



 * Update: The link pointing to the data on Messenger becoming the most used IM client is from around when (2003-04) it first claimed that crown. Messenger has continued that trend since then. (Thanks to our keen eyed readers for catching that one!)

Vikram works on Incubation Strategy for Microsoft Research Machine Translation team
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  • Thanks for this translation Bot , will remove any language barrier on IM.

    Trying it out.

    The link for 'number one'

    seems to be of the year 2004 ?

  • Very Nice work.Very useful, Just tried it.

    And also blogged about it :

  • Did you know that MSN messenger recently became the number one instant messenger in the world? Last summer,

  • Did you know that MSN messenger recently became the number one instant messenger in the world? Last summer

  • Why should I use this over Google Talk's bots, they are near perfect.... is great stuff..

  • The MTBot prototype project was released in May 2007.

    So why the blog post now?

  • Windows Live Messenger 翻訳BOT登場

  • It does the so-called `translation' word by word!!!

    It needs improving...

  • Nice work, but there are better other bots

  • Microsoft Research Machine Translation (MSR-MT) Team Blog お馴染み Research 部の成果物として...

  • vasudev: Thanks for your post and also pointing out the date on the IM data, I updated the post to be reflective of the most recent numbers I could find

    brandon: Glad you are liking using machine translation - there are multiple implementations and I am glad you found the one you liked. If you have suggestions for improving the user experience of the messenger bot - I am sure Helvecio would love to hear them

    slimy: As i mentioned in the post, this was a small side project by one of the members of our team - and he had posted it in May on the spaces blog. This blog launched only recently and i only just got around to getting a post about this up here. We can blame it on my not finding as much time as I would really like to post to this blog :-)

  • 凄い。I tried the Japanese to English translation and it works pretty well. Good stuff!

  • hi, how I can change the leanguage to translate?


  • luca: Just start a new conversation with the bot and choose the language you want to use.


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