Monday, 16 April 2018

Red-Faced Tencent Artificial Intelligence

Tencent's translations of the Boao Forum were hardly impressive
At the Boao Forum for Asia last week in Hainan, Tencent was keen on showing off its AI or artificial intelligence translation system, but it looks like this technology won't replace humans anytime soon.

The simultaneous translation system spouted gibberish that was displayed live in a big screen at the event and in a WeChat mini program. These included garbled characters, repeated words and even broken Chinese. There were many screen shots of these posted on social media last week.

A screen shot shows the gibberish
Tencent quickly acknowledged the errors and promised to improve in the future.

"The AI interpreter had some errors and gave wrong answers to several questions during the forum," Tencent said in a statement. "Our simultaneous [translation] machine, an artificial intelligence (AI) product, has a drawback, but it is still learning and growing."

For example, it translated "Belt and Road Initiative" -- China's international infrastructure development plan that covers more than 68 countries -- as "a road and a waistband".

Cue the laughing emojis.

So while critics are laughing, human interpreters can breathe a bit easier, knowing their jobs are still in tact -- for now.

"I do not think the technology is mature enough... Maybe in the next two years," said Lim Huisin, who has served as a conference interpreter on the mainland for the past five years. "I am not too worried about being replaced by a machine."

Personally I'm glad to hear this AI translation system isn't up to scratch yet -- the top translators in China are excellent -- they really do translate things quite accurately and with good English! Try to beat that, AI!

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