Saturday, August 06, 2005

Can Google Stay Google?

Can Google Stay Google?: "'We're in a target-rich environment of interesting problems,' says Alan Eustace, one of Google's handful of vice presidents of engineering and its head of research. Take the technology for 'machine translation' of human language. Right now, Google can automatically translate Web pages from English into a bunch of major languages and vice versa -- German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. The list will get longer in the next year or two. But that's just the beginning, Eustace says: 'The goal is to make the Internet language-independent.' Ultimately, all search results will come back instantly in your own language, regardless of what tongue you speak -- and what dialect the pages are written in. Every Google user will be like a delegate in the General Assembly of the United Nations putting on headphones to hear translations of the speaker up front. At the UN, it doesn't matter whether you speak only French and the orator is waxing eloquent in Chinese. The Web will be the same way.
Automated universal translation is the kind of long-range vision that inspires people like Eustace. It fascinates them because it's a technical Mount Everest that they can climb, but also because it's an idealistic goal that's potentially enriching to global society. 'In the long term, if you can create technology that can unify information around the world and remove the language barrier, that would be very special,' he says. "

Are we there yet? - I would love to be able to finally translate something in this engine. From what can be seen at Google, the quality of translation isn't far from what Systran, Logos, AppTek and Barcelona systems have been delivering since the '80.

Here is what Google writes about its translation in their language tools FAQ:
The translation isn't as good as I'd like it to be. Can you make it more accurate?

The translation you are seeing was produced automatically by state-of-the-art technology. Unfortunately, today's most sophisticated software doesn't approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator. Automatic translation is very difficult, as the meaning of words depends upon the context in which they are used. Because of this, accurate translation requires an understanding of context, as well as an understanding of the structure and rules of a language. While many engineers and linguists are working on the problem, it will be some time before anyone can offer a quick and seamless translation experience. In the interim, we hope the service we provide is useful for most purposes.

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