This is the year of machine learning and big data. Whether it is predicting political results, supercharging your Excel spreadsheets, helping map queries to intent in Search, or even customizing a translation engine to best fit your content – these research areas are playing a starring role in transforming technology and productivity.
A couple of weeks back, at the 14th annual Computing in the 21st Century Conference, attendees saw a glimpse of where else these technologies are taking us – and loved it. Rick Rashid, who heads up Microsoft Research worldwide, went up on stage and in the span of eight sentences, got the 2000+ strong crowd up on their feet and cheering. It was a moment where technology was indistinguishable from magic – and one that would spur science fiction writers to start thinking of bigger challenges for researchers to tackle :)
Watch the video to see for yourself:
A combination of powerful technologies were employed to make this amazing demonstration possible: Deep Neural Network based processing combined with high performance computing allowed a significant jump in accuracy of speech recognition. The Microsoft Translator technology that you use each day was customized to best fit Rick’s speech content. New speech synthesis technology that allows personalization of acoustic characteristics was able to create “Rick’s voice” in a language he does not speak. You can read Rick’s blog post here.
Some of these technologies are already available today, especially the industry-leading translation (Microsoft Translator) with customization capabilities (Translator Hub). If you are a Windows Phone user, you have been enjoying the most innovative translation app on any phone for over a year now, which includes an early speech translation experience that has been tuned for travel situations. The audio output that you hear on Bing Translator website uses some of the newer speech synthesis engines coming out of our Speech research. Deep-Neural-Net research is also behind our audio/video indexing service – MAVIS, which is available commercially.
The excitement that has been rippling across the web in response to this demonstration is an indicator of how much everyone wants to experience this ‘magic’. There is much work to do, but you will see the benefits of this amazing research in our products in our future releases.
Vikram Dendi Director Microsoft/Bing Translator & Microsoft Research
Special guest post from Microsoft Research Connections Director Kristin Tolle, who has been working with the Mayan community to enable them to preserve their language. Microsoft Translator Hub provides a means for communities and businesses to build custom language translation systems.
At X’Caret, the Mayan eco-archaeological park in Carmen Del playa, the Rector of the Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo, Professor Francisco Rosado-May and I along with Governor of Quintara Roo, Roberto Borge Angulo, unveiled the custom Mayan to Spanish translation system to demonstrate it to the community on December 21st, 2012—a date that coincided with the end of the 13th b’ak’tun and the beginning of the 14th. A fitting beginning for the Mayan-Spanish translation system.
I mentioned what an honor it is in a Microsoft Research Connections blog to work with local communities to create new translation models. What is special about the Microsoft Translator Hub is that it enables this capability “at home” by putting the power of developing a translation system into the hands of the organizations that care about it the most—the communities themselves.
An organization’s small data can be combined with our big data for the major languages to aid in the training of a new system—keeping it in use for coming generations or as the Mayans say, b’ak’tun. This is incredibly important to culture and language preservation as Carlos Allende, Public Sector Director Microsoft México explains, “The Microsoft Translator Hub is Microsoft’s contribution to worldwide cultures. In Mexico we are proud that this incredible technology is displayed for celebrating the Mayan Katun for keeping this language alive and allowing the next generation to have access to this millenarian knowledge.”
It takes a great deal of effort to build a translation model between two languages. One of the features of the Microsoft Translator Hub is that one can do this directly—create a translation model between two languages without having to go through a “pivot” language (usually English). And this is what the local university, Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo, has set out to do; to translate from Mayan to Spanish and vice versa.
The process began in May of this year when the Rector of the University, Professor Francisco Rosado-May, met with us at the LATAM Faculty Summit held in Cancun to discuss how it might be possible for his institution to work on Yucatec, a local Mayan dialect, as well as other related languages.
“The Translator Hub by Microsoft is not only a powerful software that facilitates the proper communication between Maya and Spanish but it is also a very important tool to achieve one of the strategic goals of our university: to preserve and increase the use of Maya,” said Professor Rosado-May who went on to explain the significance of language preservation, “Language is the genetic code of any culture, by understanding and using a lot more Maya, we also understand better the mental processes that trigger the construction of knowledge. In the case of Maya, that means understanding how they created sophisticated knowledge such as the zero, astronomy, mathematics, etc. This is why my University and I appreciate so much what Microsoft is doing with the Translator Hub.”
What is being unveiled today is a result of the hard work of linguistics professor, Martin Equival-Pat, his students, local language experts and the support of the local government agencies and Microsoft Mexico. Through their work the university has been able to build a Spanish to Yucatec and Yucatec to Spanish translation system that is just the beginning. As Rosado-May goes on to elaborate, “I expect that the hub will play an important role for the years to come in positioning the Maya language in the global world. We might be witnessing something special for the Baktuns ahead of us and contributing to one of the most important dreams all over the world: live in peace by understanding each other better, and recognizing that different cultures and different languages are important for peace.”
Microsoft Mexico fully supports this project and is comitted to the Mayan society. As Juan Alberto González Esparza, General Director Microsoft México explains, “Think for a moment of a situation where a Spanish speaker and a Maya person communicate with one another in their own languages using a computer or a phone. This is the world that Microsoft has imagined and now this is a reality thanks the Microsoft Translator HUB-Maya; that brings to the new age the Mayan language with all its culture, meanings, stories and lifestyle that will be preserved and available to everyone worldwide. This is the way we are generating a real impact in vulnerable communities connecting people with the potential of our technology.”
As we entered into the 14th b’ak’tun on December 22nd energized and engaged; the possibilities for the impact of the Hub and the impact of language preservation throughout the world are limitless.
- Kristin Tolle Director, Natural User Interactions Team Microsoft Research Connections
Microsoft Translator offers great tools for web developers. With the Microsoft Translator Widget you can add translation to all of the content of your site, giving the user control over what language they read your site in.
With the Microsoft Translator API you can get access to our service allowing you to translate any user generated or other text. In this walkthrough you’ll learn how to use both of these, adding a widget to the master page of an ASP.NET site, as well as how to sign up for the translator API and use it in your ASP.NET code.
The walkthrough takes you through everything you need to know, including where and how to get the free Visual Studio tools for web developers, signing up for the API, generating a widget and writing the code that you need to access the API.
You can read the complete walk through here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/translation/p/webapptranslator.aspx
Today Microsoft celebrates the International Mother Language Day alongside UNESCO, with the goal to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism across the world. Advancements in technology to support and preserve languages create greater awareness of the linguistic and cultural traditions celebrated throughout the world, which in turn promote understanding,tolerance and dialogue.
With the proliferation of digital content on the web, mobile devices and desktop applications, there is an increasing demand to communicate and collaborate in multiple languages. Helping enable business, communities, and consumers to communicate and collaborate across language barriers through technology innovation is a core focus for the Microsoft Translator team.
Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of two new officially supported languages: Malay and Urdu. These two languages join the other languages already supported by the Microsoft Translator platform and Bing Translator. Malay is spoken by over 200M people worldwide in countries ranging from Malaysia to Brunei. Urdu is spoken by over 100M people worldwide and is spoken by large populations residing in the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and countries in Europe and North America. It is the national language of Pakistan, and the official language of several states in India.
A year ago, on the last International Mother Language Day, we announced the release of Hmong as part of a close engagement between Microsoft and the Hmong community - a small but significant step towards empowering businesses and organizations to tap into the power of Microsoft’s language technology. Like Hmong, the development of Urdu is the result of a community effort shepherded by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India) under the leadership of Dr.Girish Nath Jha, and Microsoft, utilizing the powerful Microsoft Translator Hub customization tools.
In addition to the launch of these new languages; we are also rolling out several new improvements to our platform, customization tools and language quality. See the release notes for this release in our forum here.
We have seen some great momentum with both the business and language communities for the Translator Hub. Through the Hub, users are able to bring better and specialized translation quality to established languages, as well as the many native languages of the world that are not yet supported by major translation providers which goes to the core of supporting the goals of Mother Language Day. Urdu is the latest language community benefiting from the availability of the Hub.
Developers and webmasters can begin leveraging these languages today on their sites by installing the Microsoft Translator Widget and users can utilize the collaborative features of the widget to provide alternate translations to improve the translation quality. Additionally, if you are passionate about the community development efforts around Urdu or other languages that we support and want to become involved in the efforts, please contact us.
Commemorating the International Mother Language Day, Microsoft Local Language Program (LLP), also announced the support of 13 extra languages to our range of Language Interface Packs (LIPs), bringing the total number of languages supported by Windows 8 and Office to 108. Learn more at the LLP web site.
- Vikram Dendi, Director of Product Management, Microsoft/Bing Translator
An easy way to subscribe to the Translator API is through the Windows Azure Marketplace , as evidenced by the thousands of developers subscribing to the service through the marketplace. The team just added an often asked for feature - Auto-refill. This feature addresses a key request from many Translator API customers who wanted to (a) more tightly control their monthly pre-committed subscription level and (b) not run out of volume in case the usage exceeds the forecast level.
Here is what the marketplace team has to say about the new feature:
The Auto-refill option can be enabled on any paid subscription, giving more options to subscribers of the Microsoft Translator API ensure effective use of their subscription volumes. Auto-refill provides the ability to ensure that you, or anyone using your subscription, do not reach your usage limit before the end of your subscription period, and thus avoid the resultant loss of service. Auto-refill does this by cancelling your current Translator subscription and creating a new subscription before you reach your usage limit. All this happens seamlessly, without interrupting the service.
How Does it Work?
You subscription gives you a certain allotment of transactions, users, characters or other discrete limits (characters - for translator). Once you enable Auto-refill on a particular subscription, Windows Azure Marketplace monitors your character balance for the current subscription period. If your balance reaches 10% or less of your subscription limit, and you have not used up your maximum number of Auto-refills in the past 30 days (or have chosen unlimited Auto-refills), Windows Azure Marketplace re-subscribes you to, and charges you the then-effective subscription rate for, a new subscription, thereby giving you new subscription period and new character balance. In addition, any characters remaining immediately before Auto-refill occurred are carried over to your new subscription so that you don’t lose anything you already paid for.
Who Can Benefit From Auto-refill?
Scenario 1 - Manage Anticipated Spikes in Volume
If you are running a promotional campaign for your application you might see higher than expected traffic during the promotion. If you don't know what your target reach may be and want to ensure no interruption in service, you could select the "Unlimited" refill option during the course of the promotion. This will ensure that any unanticipated spikes are supported. In the month following the promotion, you can then modify your subscription and auto-refill needs accordingly.
Scenario 2 - Manage Your Costs
The cyclical nature of projects may require higher or lower volumes in given months. Some months your usage may require only 4M characters and in others your usage may increase to 32M characters. With the auto-refill feature you can set your monthly volume to 4M with an auto-refill option of 8 refills.By leveraging the auto-refill feature, you are able to better manage your subscription to your lowest anticipated volumes / costs and then increase your volumes as needed. Allowing you to minimize time spent monitoring your usage and save costs over a larger subscription every month.
Step-by-Step to Enable Auto-Refill for Microsoft Translator
Step 1: Select “Enable Auto Refill”
Step 2: Enter the Number of refills, agree to the terms and conditions, and click “Submit”
Step 3: Return to summary where uou should now see your available refills and option to “Edit Auto Refill”
Click here to learn more about the Auto-refill feature and here to learn more about other release features for Windows Azure Marketplace.