Are Advances in AI-Powered Machine Translation Posing a Risk to Jobs or Is It all Just Hype?

14 January 2021
Are Advances in AI-Powered Machine Translation Posing a Risk to Jobs or Is It all Just Hype?

Posted: 21/08/19

This week, the ADAPT Centre at DCU is welcoming the world’s largest machine translation (MT) conference with almost 300 MT experts from across the globe travelling to Dublin to attend.  Run by the ADAPT Centre, the world-leading SFI Research Centre in Digital Content Technology, the MT Summit will feature the latest in MT technology and highlight whether the capabilities of AI-powered translation – so-called Neural Machine Translation (NMT) –  could cost human jobs.

Neural machine translation has revolutionised the translation industry in recent years with accuracy levels that are so good that large MT developers have claimed parity with human translation.  ADAPT researchers have demonstrated these claims to be overblown, but there is no doubt that the quality of NMT output is improving in leaps and bounds. Post-editing by a human is still being done but for many use-cases, raw MT output with no human intervention is sufficient.

Speaking about the hype, Professor Andy Way, Deputy Director at the ADAPT Centre and Professor in Computing at DCU said: “These new technology developments have the ability to streamline communications, in real-time, between individuals without a shared language.  Although industries change because of new technology, I believe this will create growth and add value; where human translators remain part of the workflow, they will remain the most important link in the chain”.

The MT Summit 2019, which has taken almost two years to plan, has attracted industry leaders from Microsoft, Tencent, eBay, Alibaba and SAP along with many other innovative companies.  Topics throughout the week will cover the advancement of real-time speech translation, the increase in MT in industries such as financial services, and how MT is securing the digital longevity of languages.

Speaking about the value of the MT Summit to Ireland, Professor Andy Way, for 20 years now leader of the MT team at DCU said: “Companies often don’t realise how much time and resources they need to invest in order to overcome language barriers simply to either sustain their market presence internationally or try to successfully enter a market. The MT Summit is providing a forum for industry and research leaders to collaborate on how technology advancements can address language barriers and create real-time access to an increasing number of languages around the globe; in the 21st Century, language cannot be a barrier to access of information.  The fact that this is the largest ever MT Summit highlights Ireland’s leading role in the MT industry worldwide.”

The MT Summit will run until the 23rd August and takes place in the Helix at DCU.  The opening ceremony will be held at 9am on Wednesday 21st August featuring keynote speaker Helena Moniz, head of Linguistic Quality Assurance at Unbabel, a translation company focused on AI leveraged by humans. Helena is an expert in creating scalable processes to evaluate the performance of humans and MT systems.

ADAPT is a world-leading SFI research centre focused on developing state-of-the-art innovations in digital content technology.  ADAPT’s MT and natural language processing expertise is based in Dublin City University and experts collaborate across ADAPT’s affiliate institutions to develop innovations that are helping break down language barriers and realise high-quality machine translation for a range of applications.

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