Google has announced via blog post that their Google Translate service is used by more than 200 million people each month. Broken down further, in any given day, Google translates the equivalent to as much text as you’d find in 1 million books.
Franz Och, a research scientist with Google Translate, discusses how Google’s translation service has progressed over the years. In 2001, Google started offering a service that would translate eight different languages to and from English. It used state-of-the-art commercial machine translation (MT) and while it did work, it wasn’t very effective or efficient.
The service didn’t improve much over the next couple of years, either. In 2003, Google made a concerted effort to better the service, hiring Och away from his research position at DARPA. Using the search giant’s massive computing infrastructure, the team was able to get some pretty strong results although it still wasn’t quick enough for practical use. It took Google 40 hours and 1,000 computers to translate 1,000 sentences.
The team continued to optimize the system and only a year later, the service could translate a full sentence every second. The MT approach was unveiled in April 2006 and within the past six years, the translation division has worked on quality and language coverage.
Users can now translate 64 different languages through translate.google.com or via mobile apps and Chrome. The ultimate vision is a world where anyone can consume and share data, regardless of what language it’s presented in.