An independent study tested three of the most popular voice assistants when it comes to translation, and found Google Assistant to be the most reliable.
The study was done by One Hour Translation (OHT), the world’s largest online translation agency, to analyze the three leading virtual assistants in the market in terms of translation capability. These were Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.
To test the AIs, OHT chose 60 well-known phrases in English to be translated into four languages. These ranged from memorable lines from movies like The Godfather and The Wizard of Oz, to famous quotes from historical figures like John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong and Leonardo da Vinci.
The phrases were translated into four main languages: Chinese, French, German and Spanish. The results were then assessed by professional human translators and graded on a scale of 1 to 6.
According to OHT’s findings:
- Google Assistant scored highest in three out of 4 languages (French, German and Spanish)
- Amazon’s Alexa performed best when it came to Chinese
- Apple’s Siri took second place in French and Spanish, but ranked last in German and Chinese
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“The automated assistants’ translation quality was relatively high, which means that assistants are useful for handling simple translations automatically,” said Yaron Kaufman, OHT’s co-founder and chief marketing officer. He further predicted that “there is no doubt that the use of assistants is growing rapidly, is becoming a part of our lives and will make a huge contribution to the business world.”
The findings are significant, given that all three tech titans (Amazon, Apple and Google) recently gave their AIs Neural Machine Translation (NMT) capabilities. NMT has revolutionized the translation field during the past couple of years, with major tech companies investing large sums in the technology. Compared to traditional statistical machine translation, the NMT process uses artificial neural networks to predict word sequences, which allows them to be more efficient and require less memory.
Google’s lead can be traced to the company’s early investment in NMT. Google Assistant uses the Google Neural Machine Translation system first rolled out in November 2016 to replace the nine-year-old statistical method then used by Google Translate. The new system has since been integrated into Google’s hardware products, such as the Pixel smartphones and Pixel Buds wireless earbuds, to allow real-time on-the-fly translation.
Meanwhile, Amazon has been quietly beefing up Alexa’s translation capabilities. Last year, the e-commerce giant was reported to be working to turn Alexa into a “context-savvy, real-time universal language translator”, and eventually roll out the feature to Alexa-enabled devices.
And as the world’s largest online translation agency, OHT has been at the forefront of the NMT wave to cater to its MNC clients. According to Kaufman, “we work with several of the leading NMT providers to improve their engines through the use of its hybrid online translation service that combines NMT and human post-editing.”
The company has made a name for itself assessing NMT engine translations, with its quarterly ONEs evaluation score being used as an industry standard. OHT’s client base counts more than half of the Fortune 500, including Amazon, Coca-Cola, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Shell and Xerox.