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Transcription and translation have all traditionally felt like getting buckets of water from the well, when you should just be able to open the taps. That’s the reason why we created a simple service to help transcribe and translate videos called Unbabel for Video. Not only is it one of our latest developments, we’re also proud to announce that it’s now one of our award-winning services.

Unbabel’s Head of Research, André Martins has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for his proposed 5-year research project DeepSPIN — Deep Structured Prediction in Natural Language Processing.

With a multitude of new language interfaces like digital assistants, messenger apps, and customer service bots on the rise, André has rightly stated that these emerging technologies still have a long way to go:

New people come in through our office every day, we’ve kind of gotten used to it. But, when one of the fathers of machine translation walks in through the door, it’s reason enough to jump out of one’s skin.

That’s what happened when Professor Andy Way of the ADAPT Center at Dublin City University joined us in Lisbon for the first episode of Understand with Unbabel.

In part 1 of this series, we saw how history and luck put English at the top of the world’s linguistic tree. It might not have been the most spoken language in the world, but if English had a GDP, it would dwarf any other language on the planet.

In part 2, we found out that, particularly online, the strength of the English language is dwindling. Just 23 languages (out of more than 7000) are the native tongue of over 4 billion people that’s more than half the world. 

This gentle decline in the use of English should be discussed in terms of the economically-driven success of other countries. Whilst China for its sheer size has hogged the headlines, large parts of Asia and Africa are starting to assert themselves on the world stage. This has consequences for business.

In the first piece of this series, we discovered that English had got lucky. Of the 7000+ languages spoken in the world today an ever-changing list as dialects flex, grow and die out English became dominant. 

It’s historical good fortune and the practicalities of trade that gave English its position by the late 20th Century, and it’s no surprise that circumstance and practicality are equally responsible for the new world of language we find ourselves in today.

In this three-part series, we’re going to look at how the balance of language especially online is changing, and what that means for business. 

If you’re reading this in the original English it was written (rather than our translations in Chinese, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish or Italian), perhaps it’s not your first language, but here we are.

How did that happen? 

There is no one moment when SaaS Software as a Service was conceived, because SaaS as a concept has a host of components; all of which have had to come together in the right context in order to produce value for any sector or vertical market. Different sectors have moved towards SaaS models at different speeds.

In technical terms, SaaS relies on cloud delivery at scale, a minimum degree of widely available connectivity, and enterprise-grade security. If any of these are weak, SaaS drops off the agenda.

Artificial intelligence (AI) in gaming isn’t a recent innovation. As early as 1949, mathematician and cryptographer Claude Shannon pondered a one-player chess game, in which humans would compete against a computer. 

Indeed, gaming has been a key engine of AI, and a proving ground for the simulations, constructed environments and tests of realism that are the foundation of virtual experiences. 

At Unbabel we’re avid users of Slack, coordinating hundreds of overlapping workstreams, keeping the growing team of a multinational startup all on the same page, and generally living out our internal culture: one that values continuous learning about the areas we work in and on, and seeks to discover new and better ways to work.

As we’ve grown, more voices have been added to one of our channels, #worth_reading rebellious academics, failed philosophers, restless souls, frustrated artists, and all-round geeks— and we think the collective curation here has now become a resource worth sharing more widely. 

So let’s look at what we shared this month: 

It’s easy to lose ground in e-commerce. In a crowded market where customers can buy from a competitor as simply as following a link, retailers have to work hard. Every search term, product description and user pathway matters.

Not surprisingly, smart players have come to depend on the abundance of data consumers make available at every step of the business process. They deploy predictive analytics, machine learning and other Artificial Intelligence techniques to redefining the rules of the game, helping some stay ahead of the competition, and improving the customer experience overall. 

Here are just a few examples of how.