There have been many stories about brain vs. brawn. More recently, human brain and computer brawn have been pitted against each other in arenas such as one-on-one chess. We all have been hearing about applying large amounts of computing power to solve problems like translation by sheer force. As a high performance cloud service offered by Microsoft, we continue to make investments in such processing power – but we also know that no matter how many machines you throw at translation, it is still impossible to get the correct, error-free, contextually accurate translation every time. With the clear understanding of how it would be a much better outcome for our users and partners, we have been hard at work exploring ways of putting together the might of the machines and the power of human understanding. The first wave of innovations focused on our partners and users was what we called “Anywhere Translations”.
Welcome to the next wave of innovation – Collaborative Translations.
Microsoft is pleased to announce, the availability of the Collaborative Translations Framework – a technology that combines the scale and speed of automatic machine translation with the accuracy and context awareness of human translation. At MIX 2010, we are announcing the latest version of our translation API (v2) and built on top of that, a new version of the pioneering translator widget that we released a year ago. In addition to bringing real-time, in-place translations to your web site, the Microsoft Translator web page widget v2 adds collaborative features that help tailor the translations delivered to fit your site.
In addition to the collaborative features powered by the Collaborative Translations Framework, the V2 of the Microsoft Translator API includes a “batch” interface to translate large amounts of data, support for communicating with the service securely via SSL and the addition of “Translate-and-Speak” – a text-to-speech functionality. We are also adding an enhancement to our Bing Translator user site, where you can use the “Translate-and-Speak” functionality whenever you translate into one of the supported languages.
What is being announced today:
1) A simple to adopt, highly customizable widget that site owners and webmasters can place on any webpage – and it not only helps to instantly make the page available in multiple languages, it also allows the owners with the help of their community or professional translators to tailor the the translations to their site’s content.
2) A broad set of powerful translation APIs in SOAP, HTTP and AJAX flavors so that developers can pick the best one to fit their requirement. Functionality includes language detection, single and batch translation, collaborative translations and text to speech. All you need to get started is a Bing Developer AppID. In addition, we are also announcing the Microsoft Translator Silverlight control for translation will be available as part of the Silverlight toolkit.
3) An update to Bing Translator translation service, which adds the “Translate-and-Speak” functionality for a set of languages (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian). Perform a translation on the site and you will notice a speaker icon to click on to hear it spoken.
Who is it for:
The APIs are for anyone that would like to bring translations to their app or site. Some developers have used the APIs to deliver applications that can deal with content in multiple languages, and others have used them to localize their applications. Designers have used them to make sure their designs work in many locales, and enterprises have used them to translate documents. Phone application developers might find the cloud text-to-speech API particularly interesting, as they develop hands-free scenarios.
What is cool about it:
- Innovative: The translator widget pioneered the in-place instant translations (without taking users away from the site) and now it delivers the tools for sites to customize how the content gets translated. Users can edit/select or report the automatic translations to better fit the content and site owners have final say in picking the best translation for their content. Users in a community help other users and the community owner, and one community helps another community as sentences repeat. The APIs enable any developer to take advantage of the power of collaboration, and can tap into the wisdom of their crowd(s) across multiple scenarios.
- Easy to Use: Adding the widget to a page is as easy as copy and paste. Using it on the site is as easy as select language and click the button (and in V2 we provide the option to make it automatic!). The APIs are simple and straight forward. The choice of SOAP, HTTP and AJAX allows developers to pick the one most familiar or easy to use for their application.
- Customizable: From color and size selection to the translation behavior – everything about the widget is customizable to fit the site’s requirements.
- Thoughtful User Experience: Progressive rendering allows for the page to get translated progressively – without having the user stare at a white space while the translation is being performed. The translation toolbar that appears when the translation is kicked off provides a progress indicator, the languages selected and a way to turn off the translation. Auto and Notify preferences and an option to hide the widget control help deliver the optimal user experience to the visitor of a site.
- Localized: The entire widget experience, including the alternatives UI are all localized to multiple languages. Users visiting a site with their browser set to a different language will see the UI in their language.
Fun! What does it cost:
The widget is completely free for use on commercial or non-commercial sites. Instead of expensive localization whose costs are incremental if a site has changing content, the translator widget brings a no-cost option to site owners. Depending on their needs, site owners can choose to invite their chosen translators to come help improve the translations delivered to their site.
The APIs are also available at no cost to developers and partners. For high volume commercial use, email email@example.com.
How do I get it:
Each MIX 2010 attendee gets an exclusive invite code in their attendee bags to enable Collaborative Translations features in their widget. If you are not attending MIX, you can still get a widget for your site, and add yourself to the Collaborative Translations feature invite list. We will be sending invites as soon as some more become available.
What we are working on:
- More polish:We will be looking for your feedback and continue to work on the fit and finish for the widget, toolbar and alternatives UI. We are also working on providing better translator invitation management as well as analytics for site and app owners. We would love to hear your feedback about the “translate-and-speak” functionality.
- More customizability: We will be evolving the customization options available to you through the adoption portal. We will also be looking at your feedback on the overall design of the APIs and the functionality available through the GetTranslations & AddTranslation methods. We are working on providing language selection options (so site owners can limit the number of languages they show as part of the widget). We are also working on adding export functionality for your site’s edits.
- Compatibility: We are working hard to ensure that our user interfaces are broadly compatible with most modern browsers (widget and translate-and-speak) and sites (widget and Bing Translator). Make sure to check back often if a feature did not work in your browser – we update often.
- Silverlight: We are working on making the Silverlight translator control available as part of the Silverlight toolkit release that would be shipped when SL4 goes final.
I can’t get it to work or I have encountered a bug. Where can I get support or provide feedback?
Given the pre-release nature of the new functionality you might encounter glitches as we work towards adding new features. The known issues list is available here. If there is an issue that you encounter which is not in the list, we would love it if you could let us know. You can either use our forums, or directly contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can this save me the cost of doing expert localization of my professional website?
Expert localization is an extremely important and valuable aspect of doing business globally. We have always encouraged our users to take advantage of the exceptional quality of translations provided by an expert translator for mission critical content that needs to be localized. For those of you who are looking for a low cost way to localize content that you might not otherwise have localized, or for content that is rapidly changing (and not cost effective to use expert localization) – our machine and human collaborative translations option could come in handy and save money.
How many languages do you support? When can you add support for <insert language here>?
We continually work on adding new languages – since last MIX we added 17 new languages bringing us to 30. Here is the list of languages we currently support:
You can always find the latest list of languages here.
We are looking to work with providers of hosted services to make adding the widget an easy process for their users. If your provider does not offer this, please let them and us know that you would like to see the widget work with your site.
Those of you who are at MIX 2010 can dive deeper into these technologies at our session (Monday 3/15, Lagoon H at 2:00 PM). We will also be posting in-depth information about the various aspects of today’s announcement in the next few days. Keep checking this post and our forums for further announcements, known issues and more information. You can follow our MIX10 coverage on twitter.