Skype’s Real-Time Translator Learns How to Speak From Social Media

The quirky cant of Twitter and Facebook helped Microsoft build the tools for its real-time translator

4 min read
Skype’s Real-Time Translator Learns How to Speak From Social Media
Illustration: Dan Page

Think you have trouble deciphering social media slang? Try translating it. Microsoft researchers have been studying how to translate social media, and in their efforts they came across a way to teach the company’s upcoming Skype Translator how to speak more like us.

Some researchers think social media could be key to getting computers to better understand humans. Social media experiments are “important examples of a new line of research in computational social science, showing that subtle social meaning can be automatically extracted from speech and text in a complex natural task,” says Dan Jurafsky, an expert in computational linguistics at Stanford, who recently led work on teaching computers about human interactions by listening to speed dating.

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The Future of Deep Learning Is Photonic

Computing with light could slash the energy needs of neural networks

10 min read

This computer rendering depicts the pattern on a photonic chip that the author and his colleagues have devised for performing neural-network calculations using light.

Alexander Sludds

Think of the many tasks to which computers are being applied that in the not-so-distant past required human intuition. Computers routinely identify objects in images, transcribe speech, translate between languages, diagnose medical conditions, play complex games, and drive cars.

The technique that has empowered these stunning developments is called deep learning, a term that refers to mathematical models known as artificial neural networks. Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning, a branch of computer science based on fitting complex models to data.

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