Over the last few months, while our data and languages specialists have been continuing their focus on improving language coverage and quality, the rest of the team doubled down on performance, infrastructure and bug fixing. After the big release at MIX we took the next release as an opportunity to focus on ensuring a strong foundation which can support the rapidly increasing demand for the service and fix any fit and finish issues that were postponed in the run up to that release.
A data center move, several significant user experience related performance improvements, a more scalable service infrastructure and a bunch of bug fixing later here we are with product offerings that are more performant than ever before. You may not be able to notice all the improvements, but a sampling:
Webpage Translator (Bilingual Viewer): The most visible change is the default “view” – the “translation-with-hover-original” is now the view you are presented with if you are a first time visitor. This is a change that is geared towards the most common usage scenario of the bilingual viewer where our users are looking to seamlessly translate and browse various web pages. The side-by-side view is still available just a click away, and we remember your preference of view once you switch from the default. We certainly have quite a few users who love the side-by-side view especially when using wider screens or learning a new language. You can learn more about the bilingual viewer in this blog post. Along with this change, we have been able to improve the load time, the translation time and reliability of translations on long pages. There was also a significant speed increase in English to Chinese (simplified) translation performance. Try it now!
Office: Those of you using the translation functionality in Office will also benefit from the performance related improvements. For those that haven’t tried it yet, you can right click on a selection within Office products and select “Translate” to have the text be translated instantly. In Office 2010, you should be able to do this without any configuration. You can check out the manual setup instructions for Office 2003 and Office 2007 in case you are unable to see Microsoft Translator powered translations in your Office install.
SSL (HTTPS) support: You are now able to securely send text to the translation service when using the API. We have also enabled the Widget to work seamlessly on SSL protected pages (without any security warnings). This has been a frequently requested feature from many of our users and we are glad to bring it to you in this release. Those of you who already generated widget snippets for your sites, should be able to get the HTTPS enabled widget by regenerating the snippet from the widget adoption portal. On the topic of the widget, the widget again works with Norwegian now.
Text to Speech: We have added Asian language support to our Text to Speech API and user focused features. You can now “Translate-and-Speak” in Korean, Japanese and Chinese! To try it, translate something to any of the languages that we support TTS in (Chinese , Korean and Japanese in addition to English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian) and you should see a speaker icon above the translation.
We took the all the great feedback that our users gave on the Collaborative Translations functionality (thank you for that!) and have made a number of improvements in both the user experience and how we handle input. Finally, many of you noticed that the dictionary functionality was turned off for a little while – now it is back!
We hope you enjoy all the improvements and new additions. Post your feedback or questions on our developer and user forums.
There have been many stories about brain vs. brawn. More recently, human brain and computer brawn have been pitted against each other in arenas such as one-on-one chess. We all have been hearing about applying large amounts of computing power to solve problems like translation by sheer force. As a high performance cloud service offered by Microsoft, we continue to make investments in such processing power – but we also know that no matter how many machines you throw at translation, it is still impossible to get the correct, error-free, contextually accurate translation every time. With the clear understanding of how it would be a much better outcome for our users and partners, we have been hard at work exploring ways of putting together the might of the machines and the power of human understanding. The first wave of innovations focused on our partners and users was what we called “Anywhere Translations”.
Welcome to the next wave of innovation – Collaborative Translations.
Microsoft is pleased to announce, the availability of the Collaborative Translations Framework – a technology that combines the scale and speed of automatic machine translation with the accuracy and context awareness of human translation. At MIX 2010, we are announcing the latest version of our translation API (v2) and built on top of that, a new version of the pioneering translator widget that we released a year ago. In addition to bringing real-time, in-place translations to your web site, the Microsoft Translator web page widget v2 adds collaborative features that help tailor the translations delivered to fit your site.
In addition to the collaborative features powered by the Collaborative Translations Framework, the V2 of the Microsoft Translator API includes a “batch” interface to translate large amounts of data, support for communicating with the service securely via SSL and the addition of “Translate-and-Speak” – a text-to-speech functionality. We are also adding an enhancement to our Bing Translator user site, where you can use the “Translate-and-Speak” functionality whenever you translate into one of the supported languages.
What is being announced today:
1) A simple to adopt, highly customizable widget that site owners and webmasters can place on any webpage – and it not only helps to instantly make the page available in multiple languages, it also allows the owners with the help of their community or professional translators to tailor the the translations to their site’s content.
2) A broad set of powerful translation APIs in SOAP, HTTP and AJAX flavors so that developers can pick the best one to fit their requirement. Functionality includes language detection, single and batch translation, collaborative translations and text to speech. All you need to get started is a Bing Developer AppID. In addition, we are also announcing the Microsoft Translator Silverlight control for translation will be available as part of the Silverlight toolkit.
3) An update to Bing Translator translation service, which adds the “Translate-and-Speak” functionality for a set of languages (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian). Perform a translation on the site and you will notice a speaker icon to click on to hear it spoken.
Who is it for:
The APIs are for anyone that would like to bring translations to their app or site. Some developers have used the APIs to deliver applications that can deal with content in multiple languages, and others have used them to localize their applications. Designers have used them to make sure their designs work in many locales, and enterprises have used them to translate documents. Phone application developers might find the cloud text-to-speech API particularly interesting, as they develop hands-free scenarios.
What is cool about it:
Fun! What does it cost:
The widget is completely free for use on commercial or non-commercial sites. Instead of expensive localization whose costs are incremental if a site has changing content, the translator widget brings a no-cost option to site owners. Depending on their needs, site owners can choose to invite their chosen translators to come help improve the translations delivered to their site.
The APIs are also available at no cost to developers and partners. For high volume commercial use, email email@example.com.
How do I get it:
Each MIX 2010 attendee gets an exclusive invite code in their attendee bags to enable Collaborative Translations features in their widget. If you are not attending MIX, you can still get a widget for your site, and add yourself to the Collaborative Translations feature invite list. We will be sending invites as soon as some more become available.
What we are working on:
I can’t get it to work or I have encountered a bug. Where can I get support or provide feedback?
Given the pre-release nature of the new functionality you might encounter glitches as we work towards adding new features. The known issues list is available here. If there is an issue that you encounter which is not in the list, we would love it if you could let us know. You can either use our forums, or directly contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can this save me the cost of doing expert localization of my professional website?
Expert localization is an extremely important and valuable aspect of doing business globally. We have always encouraged our users to take advantage of the exceptional quality of translations provided by an expert translator for mission critical content that needs to be localized. For those of you who are looking for a low cost way to localize content that you might not otherwise have localized, or for content that is rapidly changing (and not cost effective to use expert localization) – our machine and human collaborative translations option could come in handy and save money.
How many languages do you support? When can you add support for <insert language here>?
We continually work on adding new languages – since last MIX we added 17 new languages bringing us to 30. Here is the list of languages we currently support:
You can always find the latest list of languages here.
We are looking to work with providers of hosted services to make adding the widget an easy process for their users. If your provider does not offer this, please let them and us know that you would like to see the widget work with your site.
Those of you who are at MIX 2010 can dive deeper into these technologies at our session (Monday 3/15, Lagoon H at 2:00 PM). We will also be posting in-depth information about the various aspects of today’s announcement in the next few days. Keep checking this post and our forums for further announcements, known issues and more information. You can follow our MIX10 coverage on twitter.
It’s nearly midnight in Seattle. The team is heads down in preparing the service for MIX 2010… I am sitting in the office wondering which of my 100 to-do items I should tackle next. So, naturally, I do something that’s not on that list. Something fun. :)
As I mentioned in my earlier post, MIX is our favorite conference and so we put “money where our mouth is” (let’s see a machine translation system deal with that one!) and said an enthusiastic yes when the team asked us to be a sponsor. All you lucky MIX attendees will see some awesome swag in your bags courtesy Microsoft Translator, with one of the highlights being a lovely decal for your notebook/pad/device.
Everyone liked the design we came up with for it so much that we decided to make a wallpaper out of it for you. So, without further ado:
Once again, don’t forget to come to our session on Monday at 2 PM at Lagoon H and also visit our Showcase demo area at The Commons.
- Vikram Dendi, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft Translator
Nearly a year ago Microsoft Translator unveiled an innovative new approach to translating web pages – one that enabled webmasters to bring the power of automatic machine translation to their sites with a snippet of java script. Unlike any other quick and easy solution out there at that time, the Microsoft Translator webpage widget integrated the translation experience into your site, and did not take your users away to a different translation site. Here is our friend Doug Thomas, in his inimitable style, explaining how the same powerful translation technology that powers translation inside Office can power your site.
The widget was a showcase for the broad set of APIs that we announced at the same time – APIs that have been used by many partners since that time to build a variety of software, services and sites.
You all know that we were the first major translation service to provide a Haitian Creole system to help with the relief efforts underway in Haiti. One of the key motivators for us to build the system was Rick Engle, a fellow Microsoft professional who in his various endeavors to help with the relief efforts wanted to write an application to help the workers on the ground in Haiti. Since the time we added the language to our supported list, Rick went ahead and built the mobile app he had originally set out to build. You can find it here and it works for all languages that our service supports. The goal for having a full set of APIs (including HTTP, SOAP and AJAX) has always been to help developers like Rick focus on building great applications without a lot of heavy lifting, and we will continue to invest in that direction.
When we announced the availability of the widget and the APIs, we articulated our mission – to empower content providers, site owners and developers to deeply integrate translations into their sites and communities – truly bringing translations “anywhere” they are needed. As MIX 2010 approaches, we are working towards showcasing the next wave of our partner focused innovations.
We love MIX – where we get to meet developers that understand design, designers that understand strategy, strategists that understand technology... We get to discuss language technology with a German developer building software for an English company that serves customers from China to Brazil and we get to hear great feedback about what new browsers should we be testing our AJAX controls against. It’s a brilliant “mix” of creativity, ingenuity and passion and we are glad that we have made it “our” conference to share with the world what new things that we have been cooking up.
A bunch of us with be at MIX2010, and those of you that will be there can expect some goodies in the attendee bag from our team. Do mark your schedule for our session – it’s at Lagoon H on Monday at 2 PM. If you were at last year’s session – you know how much fun it is. Oh also - we have some heavy boxes we are lugging with us. :)
If you are not at MIX (this is going to be the most attended MIX ever!), do not worry. We will have plenty of information posted here and on our site about what we are announcing at MIX on Monday. In addition, we hope to have Doug back – explaining the latest and the greatest in translation soon after that. Stay tuned!
A little while ago I was asked to figure out a solution to a user experience problem that was affecting some of our offerings such as the widget, the Bing text and web page translators. A “bug” was assigned to me, asking me to weigh in on how to deal with a problem of plenty: Given we were about to add a substantial set of new languages we were running out of space to display them properly. What could be a quick interim fix?
Several months ago, while announcing the availability of Hebrew in our language list, I had requested our community of users what else they wanted to see supported. Taking into account all the feedback that came in since then, we have been hard at work to add support to new languages. This is why it’s always a pleasure to encounter problems like the one above – they indicate that this work was coming to fruition.
I am happy to announce the addition of seven new languages to our translation service. As always, they will be immediately available for your use through the APIs and all the products that consume the service. Here is the list of languages that have been added in the latest release. In addition there have been several updates to the Haitian Creole language since we last talked about it here.
ROM - Romanian NOR - Norwegian HUN - Hungarian SKY - Slovak SLO - Slovenian LTH - Lithuanian TRK – Turkish
This brings our languages supported number to 30 languages. Here is the full list:
ARA - Arabic CHS - Chinese Simplified CHT - Chinese Traditional NLD - Dutch ENU - English FRA - French DEU - German HEB – Hebrew HT – Haitian Creole ITA - Italian JPN - Japanese KOR - Korean PLK - Polish PTB - Portuguese RUS - Russian ESN - Spanish CSY - Czech DAN - Danish ELL - Greek SVE - Swedish THA - Thai BGR - Bulgarian FIN – Finnish ROM - Romanian NOR - Norwegian HUN - Hungarian SKY - Slovak SLO - Slovenian LTH - Lithuanian TRK - Turkish
Head on over to our forums if you have specific feedback or looking for discussions about these new languages. We continue to work on adding even more languages to the service, so please keep sending us feedback and stay tuned for other announcements on this blog.
With the addition of these new languages, the approach I recommended in the short term is visible in the translation toolbar – the language list uses a smaller font size. In the future, we intend to move to either a multiple column list, or another style of display for the list.
I will look forward to more such problems, since it means we are meeting more expectations from you - our users. Enjoy the new languages!