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Foreign Language Meeting Support System with Japanese–English and Japanese–Chinese Interpretation and Translation Functions

Beginning an In-House Pilot Project in Preparation for Practical Use
29 Oct, 2015

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TOKYO—Toshiba Corporation (TOKYO: 6502) today announced that it has developed a Japanese-English and Japanese-Chinese meeting support system to assist communications between foreign nationals in business meetings and the like, featuring captioned translations that are displayed directly on the user’s computer or device screen in real time.

 

 Toshiba has developed a technology that converts and arranges spoken Japanese, which to date has been difficult to interpret, into easily translatable units and expressions. The company has also developed a technology that automatically extracts undefined specialized and in-house terminology from written materials to be used in meetings, and enters it into the system in advance. These measures significantly improve interpretation accuracy.

 

 In tests of the technology, Toshiba has verified a substantial improvement in participants’ level of understanding in foreign language meetings. The company is currently conducting an in-house pilot project, with the aim of delivering a commercial system in 2016.

 

 The technology employed by this system uses a combination of rule-based techniques to accurately capture spoken language and expressions common to the speakers and statistic-based techniques for incrementally learning from examples representing a diverse range of expressions. In this way, a broad range of expressions can be modified into expressions and sentences with a length suitable for translation.

 

 Although performance is affected by the number and quality of training examples used in the statistics-based approach, Toshiba has incorporated the processing technology into a web application that makes it possible to evaluate the processed and accumulated example cases efficiently, as well as the corresponding results. This enables improvements processing accuracy through increasing the number of the example cases.

 

 In addition, the company has developed lexical acquisition technology to extract terminology automatically from business meeting materials containing specialized terminology vital to interpretation, in order to prevent speech recognition and translation accuracy from worsening due to the occurrence of unknown vocabulary items. Toshiba has been able to realize high-quality translation that can handle differences in each person’s way of speaking using the lexical acquisition technology and a hybrid machine translation system (which combines rule-based and statistics-based methods) to process the arranged sentences.

 

With Toshiba’s technology, the accuracy*2 of translation of transcript of the meeting, measured on a five-point scale, rises from 3.2 to 3.7 for Japanese to English translation, and from 3.6 to 3.9 for Japanese to Chinese translation. This achievement is a major step forward to an accuracy level of 4.0, the level at which the original meaning is deemed to be sufficiently comprehended.

 

Toshiba has developed an interpretation system incorporating this technology to assist teleconferencing, face-to-face meetings and presentations. For Chinese meeting participants who have achieved Level 2 or better in the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (Nihongo Kentei), the company has verified*2 improvement from 60% to 80% comprehension in a meeting held in the Japanese language, using this system to translate Japanese into Chinese, and from 30% to 60% comprehension in participants who have achieved less than Level 2.

 

The globalization of production, along with the expansion of emerging markets such as China and India, has led to a rapidly increasing number of opportunities to use foreign languages in a variety of situations, such as interactions and meetings with foreign companies. When speakers’ native languages differ, this can lead to a failure to communicate ideas effectively, higher costs due to the necessity of interpreters, and other problems. All told, such language barriers can pose major challenges for businesses.

 

 Recently, much research has been conducted on speech recognition for translating conversations and machine translation technology, and an interpretation system with real-world practical application for use in everyday conversations, such as when traveling and shopping, appears to be just around the corner. However, because of the difficulty of translating specialized terminology used in meetings, unique spoken vocabulary and phrases, and redundancy, and because of the grammatical inaccuracy often found in spoken language, no practical on-site business interpretation system is yet available. Toshiba’s goal in creating this new system is to find solutions that overcome these challenges.

 

In July 2015, Toshiba started providing the RECAIUS™ cloud service to enable easier communication by capturing vocabulary and people contained in audio and video and ascertaining their various intentions and situations. In anticipation of a 2016 launch of the developed support system as a component of RECAIUS™ cloud service, Toshiba will proceed with functional improvements through the pilot project within group companies, with the aim of increasing translation performance to an accuracy level of 80% or greater and achieving a practical meeting solution through the collection of language data necessary for effective translation during in-house meetings. 

Details of the Technology

 

 

Notes:
*1. Bilingual individuals assess whether the original meaning is accurately conveyed in the translation on a five-point scale, and the comprehension rate is calculated.
*2. Measured using the accuracy rate through questions to participants regarding the content of the discourse.

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Information in the press releases, including product prices and specifications, content of services and contact information, is current on the date of the press announcement, but is subject to change without prior notice.

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