Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Speaking in Tongues

There's a fascinating article in this week's The Economist Technology Quarterly about pattern based translation and it raises an often ignored problem for TV on IP going forward - the need for dynamic translation.

Since this is a subscription only article, let me precis. Pattern based translation software works by matching two known texts and looking for similar patterns - the software doesn't need a data dictionary or, indeed, any understanding of the language it is translating to or from.

When your audience is global, even though they're all into the same content, it doesn't mean, of course, that they all speak the same language. Of course, the global dominance of English in the content business means that this is the language of choice, but over the next few decades there's a fair chance that English will be overtaken not just by Mandarin, but also by Spanish, Arabic and Hindi as the most widely spoken language on earth.

So, the ability to provide babblefish like translation will become more and more important for content producers, when the cost of translation will far exceed the cost of distribution.

Therefore, the automation of this process is going to be an important theme in the near future. Imagine a film that automatically translates the soundtrack and dubs it into your language - even if you're Welsh, as I am.

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