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Baidu develops its own take on real-time translation

Google has some fresh competition.
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AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan

Google isn't the only big game in town when it comes to real-time translations. Chinese search giant Baidu has developed its own system, STACL (Simultaneous Translation with Anticipation and Controllable Latency). Like its rival, it can start translating within a few seconds, without waiting for people to pause. Baidu, however, is counting on flexibility as its ace in the hole.

As the name implies, you can decide how long you're willing to wait before the translation begins. If you're dealing with closely related languages like French and Spanish, for instance, you could start translation after a single word. When it's a more complex translation, like from Chinese to English, you could tell the system to wait longer and improve the accuracy. Predictive code can anticipate what comes next and shortened the perceived time, although it needs a huge amount of training data to be relatively accurate.

The system still isn't accurate enough to replace human translators when they're necessary. Baidu believes it could make real-time translation more practical, however. As it is, this provides China with a major simultaneous translation option that it might not have given Google's current absence in the country.

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