With an estimated 3.25 billion voice assistants in use today, they have changed the way in which we interact with smartphones and other electronic devices. However, the technology has also had a large impact on translation.
Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology has revolutionised the field of translation over the past two years, with the capabilities of AI-based translation rapidly improving.
Earlier, this year Google launched a new Interpreter Mode for Google Assistant, which can translate conversations in real-time. Much like the Babel fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, having access to instant translation via smartphone could have a considerable impact on not only translation as a profession, but the tourism industry and international business.
According to One Hour Translation CEO Ofer Shoshan, AI will carry out 50% of all professional translation work within the next three years.
But which voice assistant was able to translate with the fewest blunders? One Hour Translation (OHT), the world’s largest online translation service, conducted a study to find out just how accurate these new services are.
Finding the best voice assistant translator
Using 60 iconic phrases from the likes of the Godfather, Neil Armstrong, JFK, and Leonardo da Vinci, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri were given the task of translating the phrases from English to French, Spanish, Chinese and German. Their efforts were then assessed by five professional translators for accuracy and given a score between one and six.
Google Assistant scored the best in three out of four languages and the Amazon Alexa voice assistant, whose translation engine is powered by Microsoft Translator, performed best when translating from English to Chinese.
Siri was second place in English to French and English to Spanish and third place in English to German and English to Chinese.
Yaron Kaufman, chief marketing officer and co-founder of One Hour Translation the world’s largest online translation agency, believes that the use of voice assistant translators will have a positive impact on the business world:
“The automated assistants’ translation quality was relatively high, which means that assistants are useful for handling simple translations automatically. There is no doubt that the use of assistants is growing rapidly, is becoming a part of our lives and will make a huge contribution to the business world.”
OHT has made a name for itself in assessing the level of translations by NMT engines. Its ONEs Evaluation Score is a unique human-based assessment of the leading NMT engines conducted on a quarterly basis and used as an industry standard.
Moving forward, Kaufman believes that a lot will depend on further improvements in NMT technology, with all the companies active in the field investing large sums of money in this:
“OHT is working with several of the leading NMT providers to improve their engines through the use of its hybrid online translation service that combines NMT and human post-editing.”