When Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft more than 40 years ago, their goal was to bring the benefits of software for computing — then largely locked up in mainframes — to everyone. Bill Gates’s vision of computers all around us expanded even further 25 years ago, when he envisioned a world where these computers could see, hear, understand, and reason as we do as humans.
Since the birth of Microsoft Research in the early 1990s, Microsoft has pioneered innovations in computer vision, speech recognition, natural language processing, and machine learning with the goal of developing systems that anticipate our needs instead of responding solely to our commands.
In fact, some of the earliest teams in Microsoft Research were the Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, and Speech. Microsoft the first to achieve human parity in vision and speech recognition. We achieved human parity for image object recognition in 2016, speech recognition in 2017, machine reading comprehension in January 2018, and machine translation in March 2018.
Today, we’re excited to partner with Huawei to bring fully neural on-device language translations in the Microsoft Translator app for Android customized for Huawei’s Mate 20 Series of smartphones. The Microsoft Translator app with these capabilities comes pre-installed on Huawei Mate 20 devices allowing every Mate 20 user to have native access to online quality level translations even when they are not connected to the Internet.
We achieved this breakthrough by partnering with Huawei to customize our neural machine translation technology for Huawei’s NPU (Neural Processing Unit) hardware in the Kirin 980 SoC that powers the Mate 20 devices. What this means for users of Huawei’s Mate 20 Series of smartphones is that they’d get dramatically better and faster translations compared to existing offline packs. This offers users a unique offline language experience not found on other devices: the power of neural network translation without an internet connection.
Microsoft uses the industry standard BLEU score to measure its translation quality. BLEU rates translation quality by comparing how close machine translations are to human ones. Using this methodology, internal tests have shown, depending on the language, up to a 23 percent better offline translation quality over competing best-in-class offline packs, and often a difference of less than 1 BLEU point between Microsoft state-of-the-art online neural and offline neural translations. This means that even when you’re not connected to the Internet, offline translation quality using the Translator app on Huawei’s Mate 20 is closer to human translation than offline translations have ever been.
Our tests also showed that translation of a full-page text picture was not only more accurate but also up to three times faster than with the previous versions of Microsoft Translator on other high-end devices. This new technology also saves space: The language packs for Huawei Mate 20 are 50 percent smaller than current Translator packs, leaving more space for your travel memories.
Huawei’s users in India can download neural translation packs for Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Bangla and Urdu, with more languages to come. Users can also give voice inputs in English and get translations in these Indian languages.
The app has all the features Microsoft Translator is known for, including 60+ text translation languages and the Translator live feature that allows up to 100 people to have real-time conversations from their own device, including joining a translated presentation using the Presentation Translator PowerPoint add-in, and more. The full feature list can be found here.