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Machine translator speaks Chinese in your own voice

Posted November 13, 2012

Computerized machine-based translation was never a real thing you could use to translate speech with 100% confidence and close to real-time performance. However technologies are advancing fast and some of major market players are already offering speech translation solutions which also include spoken voice recognition realistic human voice synthesis solutions.

And, actually these speech synthesis technologies are becoming so advanced, that it is not a problem to imitate your own voice. “Microsoft Research” just demonstrated such tool with ability to translate the spoken language to one of Chinese dialects:

Rashid spoke just eight English sentences into the lab’s new speech-recognition, translation and generation system, yet the company reports the Mandarin output wowed a crowd of 2000 students and academics (jump to 7:30 in the video above to hear the output).

The system’s advanced capability stems from a blizzard of improvements at all stages of the speech-to-speech process. Software like Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking have quietly blazed the trail for speech recognition in offices – and now products based on it, like Apple’s Siri iPhone assistant can recognise spoken questions and search for answers on the web. Microsoft’s Kinect has a speech interface too.

While such systems go wrong a lot – typically erring on one out of every four or five words, says Rashid – they now have a better way to recognise what people are saying. Microsoft’s trick is to use a novel neural networking (machine learning) system that reduces word-recognition errors to one in seven or eight. That means the translation engine, Bing Translate, has a far better chance of creating intelligible Mandarin text to feed into the speaking engine.

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