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!
Translating a website can be tricky – especially if it is not one that you built. A year back at MIX, we helped webmasters and developers take a step towards delivering a seamless, well integrated translation experience using the translator widget and the APIs. Yet, there are still many sites out there that users still need to translate without the help of such technology. Thus the continued popularity of our webpage translator, and the bi-lingual viewer feature that it pioneered.
Some of you might have noticed a significant improvement in how the webpage translator handles certain web pages that it had not done so well in the past. A couple of weeks ago, we released an updated version of the webpage translator that improves site compatibility and delivers better performance. If you have not tried it recently, we urge you to try any sites that you had not been able to get webpage translators to translate on this new release. As always, if you do find problems please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Speaking of MIX, keep an eye on MIX 2010 this year. In addition to the all the buzz around Windows Phone, don’t miss out on this session. :-)
Most of you know that we released the first publicly available Haitian Creole statistical machine translation engine last week and have been hard at work making it even better. I am pleased to announce since last night we rolled out two updates to the system and our site which bring several improvements:
1) More training data = better translations. We trained the system on even more training data (including data that we hand translated) which should reflect in better translations. We are nowhere near done yet, and we will continue to work on this.
2) Updating the AJAX API and widget. The Translator widget (and the underlying AJAX API) now accurately reflect “Haitian Creole” as the language selected in their UI. This was primarily a user interface fix (the Haitian Creole translation itself worked fine). You can use the widget to deliver any webpage in any of the languages we support (including Haitian Creole).
3) Please don’t forget the broad set of APIs and webmaster resources that are available for those that are building applications and websites to help with the relief efforts. There are several efforts underway to develop mobile apps (using the SOAP or HTTP API) and websites (using the AJAX API). If you are working on something along those lines, leave a link to your app/site in the comments and I will make sure to surface them up here so people can find them more easily.
We will continue to work on improving the system and we wish to thank everyone in the community that has been instrumental in helping us get this much requested translation engine out of the door. Stay tuned for more announcements!
Also, let me once again point to a resource where you can help with the broader Haiti relief efforts. Please help in any way you can!
Update (1/31): The DIPLOMAT project at CMU in the 1990s was an earlier project to create a Haitian Creole system for DOD/DARPA. As I mentioned in our earlier blog post, our system makes use of CMU’s data from that project.