The universal translator

Microsoft Research has designed a Web-based system capable of accurately and automatically translating the entire Microsoft Product Support Services knowledge base from English into Spanish.

By the close of 2002, Bill Dolan, manager of Natural Language Processing (NLP) Group at Microsoft Research (MSR), expects Microsoft to deploy a Web-based system capable of accurately and automatically translating the entire Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) Knowledge Base from English into Spanish, providing real-time responses to Spanish queries.

The PSS Knowledge Base is an enormous collection of information used to identify and solve problems with Microsoft software. Accurately and automatically converting this knowledge base from English to Spanish comes as the result of a two-decade plus research effort to produced an NLP system known internally at Microsoft as ‘NLPWin.’

The NLP Group is now working on English to Japanese, German, French, and Chinese versions of the NLPWin executable.

The NLP Group is exploring how its Machine Translation technology can help product divisions within Microsoft. ‘Demand for the technology is far outpacing the capacity of our 30 member research group to satisfy requests,’ says Dolan. One Microsoft product team especially interested in the technology is the Productivity Tools Group, which has the daunting task of product ‘localisation.’

Localisation, the lengthy process of preparing software for a foreign market, typically involves translating the text embedded in the software itself (e.g. menus, message dialog boxes) as well as the associated user manuals and other help text into the native language.

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