Microsoft came away as the leader of machine learning in the field of machine translation at the 2019 Fourth Conference on Machine Translation (WMT19), now in its fourteenth year.
This small but significant feat shows big promise for the software company in the artificial intelligence (AI) sector and equally big promise for the evolution of AI and blockchain as a unified entity.
Microsoft Dominates the Charts
Microsoft’s Research Asia team took home first place in eight of the 11 categories in which it participated (out of 19 categories in total). For the remaining three entries (English-Kazakh, Finnish-English, and Lithuanian-English), it won the second prize.
When we think of AI, voice recognition and translation likely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It’s certainly not as sexy as a robot butler doing your cooking. However, if AI is to become as disruptive as forecasts predict (Accenture speculates $8.3 trillion for the US market alone by 2035), then understanding us when we talk to it, and speaking to us in a language we can understand, is a cornerstone feature. AI is defined by its ability to simulate human intelligence, after all.
If you’ve used apps such as Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, particularly with a non-American accent, you’ll know there’s vast room for improvement. The same goes if you’ve traveled abroad relying on a translation app, or if you’ve made use of automatic translation in your business, career, or social life. This pertains to anything from Google Translate on websites or document translations on Facebook. In all instances, it’s clear that it’s very much a work in progress.
Microsoft Climbing Back to the Top
The Microsoft brand is synonymous with tech’s early days, but while it’s still a mainstay, the behemoth doesn’t inspire the same awe it used to. Now that hot new tech moves a mile per minute and Google has taken the crown as a one-stop shop for everything from browsers to email to cloud storage.
Other than Windows, Microsoft seems to have lost favor with its original audience, the home user. But the company isn’t content with staying the stock standard corporate SaaS and cloud service provider it has become.
In the past few years, it’s been hard at work on two of the most promising technologies of the near-future: Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence.
So, Microsoft’s recent quiet win is a more significant feat than it appears to be. The market leader is committed to dominating the tech of tomorrow.
Marrying AI and Blockchain
The company has already added BaaS (Blockchain as a Service) to its arsenal. Now let’s fast-forward to the time when Microsoft will expand its AIaaS (AI as a Service) beyond current offerings like Azure Bot Service to offer a more sophisticated AI product catalog.
It’s not a big leap, then, to imagine that there might be a day when these two converge under the tech giant’s lead. Since Microsoft operates primarily at the enterprise level, this could be the mainstream push needed to accelerate the blending of two technologies into one powerful force. They are, after all, a natural fit, as numerous companies combining the two shows.
Though Microsoft could lead a centralized AI-Blockchain convergence, it would ultimately pave the way for decentralized solutions to be developed and refined. Blockchain already allows for a lower entry-level to high tech than most small and medium-sized businesses have hitherto had access to. By combining blockchain with AI, currently still one of the costliest R&D technologies, a new wave of business innovation will open itself up to become more efficient, safe, and transparent.
Many proponents of decentralization oppose the Galactus-like force with which mega corporations guzzle up the lion’s share of everything from profits to groundbreaking frontiers. However, it paves the way, smashing through the gigantic barriers to entry that only a company with Microsoft-scale resources can bring to the table. In so doing, it opens up the canal for smaller fish with less capital to follow.
In this arena, Microsoft doesn’t disappoint. It’s already democratizing access to simplified machine learning tools so that more developers will join the ranks to utilize AI in a transformed future.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft steadily closing in on the race towards AI dominance in the field of machine translation? Do you think AI and blockchain have a combined future together? Let us know your thought in the comments below.
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