Dear Commons Community,
In the past week, Google has made a couple of announcements regarding its translation software. The NY Times (see URL below) is reporting that the Google Translate service handles 52 languages, more than any similar system, and people use it hundreds of millions of times a week to translate Web pages and other text. Creating a translation machine has long been seen as one of the toughest challenges in artificial intelligence. For decades, computer scientists tried using a rules-based approach — teaching the computer the linguistic rules of two languages and giving it the necessary dictionaries. Google’s rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems. The network of data centers that it built for Web searches may now be, when lashed together, the world’s largest computer. Google is using that machine to push the limits on translation technology. This can have important benefits for a host of applications.
Those of us involved with online learning can now use this technology to convert materials into other languages whether for students who live in other countries or for local students whose primary language is not English. Ray Schroeder, a colleague of mine at the University of Illinois – Springfield recently posted an item on a LISTSERV we both belong to that mentions that Google is now providing translations and/or captions for its Youtube services which many of us use to distribute instructional video material.