Last week we looked at a University of Houston approach to professional translation between sign language and spoken words; this week we look at how technical translation could, in future, be carried out by robots that have learned language in an organic way.
The University of Hertfordshire is working with a childlike robot dubbed the iCub, as part of a project named iTalk.
Its learning ability is based on that of infants – detecting the sounds most commonly used when real humans speak to it, and progressing from single sounds, to babbling, to forming basic words.
However, the robot is limited in that it is unable to learn the meanings of words, an obstacle that is being tackled in a separate strand of the iTalk programme.
As such, it is unlikely that any technical translation in the near future will be carried out by robots that have learned languages in this way.
In the meantime, professional translation agencies remain the best way to get a true grammatically sensible interpretation of your original text, whichever two languages you need to convert it between.