Google Translate is using AI to power a robust offline mode


Google Translate

is about to get a lot more useful to those with spotty internet connections.

Google is rolling out an update to the Google Translate to the Android app that will enable offline mode on more phones since it takes up less storage. That’s thanks to a new, phrase-based algorithm that uses an artificial intelligence-based translation system developed in collaboration with their deep learning team Google Brain.

That means translations now take into consideration the whole phrase instead of doing small chunks, says Google Translate product manager Julie Cattiau, who travelled the world to understand what improvements people wanted from the tool.

“Now our motto when users send us a query is to take into account higher queries every step of the translation,” Cattiau tells Mashable. “We’re just taking into account the whole phrase, the context of the phrase and sometimes every part of the paragraph into the translation.”

Cattiau says said the team rebuilt Google Translate from the ground up within the past year and a half, which resulted in a “more perfect technology” than what they had build over the previous decade of Google Translate’s existence.

Phrase-based machine translations versus neural machine translations

Phrase-based machine translations versus neural machine translations


Cattiau went to places like India and Indonesia, where Google Translate sees the heaviest use (Google says 90 percent of the service’s translations are done outside the United States). She found that people often didn’t have internet access when they wanted to conduct translations, showing the demand for offline capabilities.

Although people could previously download languages on Google Translate, the files were usually too large for the cheaper smartphones that are common in those markets. With the update, each language is now just 30-40 MB, vastly increasing the tool’s accessibility.

But not all features work in offline mode. Without an internet connection, the app won’t support the augmented reality camera translations — previously known as Word Lens — or handwritten translations, but Cattiau said developers are looking into adding those in a future update.

Google has been testing offline translations with a small chunk of users and will roll it out in the coming weeks. The new function is available in 59 languages total ranging from Telugu to Kannada.


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