The technology behind Google’s AlphaGo is about to give Google Translate a major upgrade and it’s within a whisker of being as good at it as humans are.


Last year, a computer system built by a team of Google engineers beat one of the world’s top Go players and the wins that AlphaGo racked up against Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol were so unexpected that the story turned into a media frenzy.  Now the same DeepMind AI that that was behind AlphaGo is at the heart of Google’s latest incarnation of its online translation service “Google Translate”.


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Modelled after the way neurons connect in the human brain, deep neural networks are the same breed of AI technology that identifies commands spoken into Android phones and the same technology that recognises people in photos posted to Facebook. Now the promise is that it will reinvent machine translation in much the same way.

Google says that with certain languages its new system, dubbed Google Neural Machine Translation, or GNMT – reduces errors by 60 percent and given the fact that Google’s previous iteration of its translation system was 92 percent accurate reducing the number of errors by this amount is a significant improvement and takes it almost to human levels of competence.


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For now this latest incarnation only translates from Chinese into English but the company plans to roll it out for the more than 10,000 language pairs now handled by Google Translate.

“We can train this whole system in an end-to-end fashion and that makes it much easier for us to focus on reducing the final error rate,” said Google engineer Mike Schuster, one of the lead members of the Google Brain team, which oversees the company’s AI work.

“What we have now is not perfect. But you can tell that it is much, much better.”

All the big internet giants, from Facebook to Microsoft, from LinkedIn to Alibaba, are moving in the same direction, training deep neural nets using translati

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Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.