Google Assistant can now understand two languages at once

Google Assistant can now understand two languages at once

August 30, 2018 0 By Nazmul Khan

Google wants to dominate the IFA tech show in Berlin this week, and it’s already announced integrations in too many gadgets to count. Along with that partner push, the company is announcing a new feature for Google Assistant: it’s bilingual now.

Essentially, if you ask Assistant a question, it will automatically recognize what language you’re speaking and respond in kind. It’s a step toward the goal that Google announced back in February to make Assistant fully multilingual without requiring you to dig into the settings and manually change its language.

You’ll be able to set up Assistant to understand and respond to any two of the following languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. Google adds that it intends on “expanding to more languages in the coming months.”

The behind-the-scenes tech to make this happen is pretty interesting, as Google explains in an accompanying blog post. To make Assistant receptive to two languages simultaneously, the company created a new language-identification model (which it calls LangID) that runs as soon as the software detects speech.

To support bilingualism, Assistant simultaneously tries to recognize the language of the speaker while transcribing it into two different languages.
Image: Google

You might think that this task of language identification would have to be completed before Assistant can transcribe what’s actually being said. But to make the response as speedy as possible, Assistant actually runs LangID in parallel with two separate language processing models that try to transcribe what’s been said in the user’s two preset languages.

Once LangID has identified the language, Assistant then cancels the incorrect transcription and routes all processing power to focus on the correct one. In order to speed up the process of identification, LangID doesn’t just consider vocabulary; it also signals the frequency at which each language is used and the type of device it’s used with. It’s a complicated process, but it’s necessary to support seamless bilingualism, says Google.

The company has also promised that it will support 30 languages by the end of this year. It’s not quite there yet, but by our count, so far it can understand about 15 languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Indonesian, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, and Swedish. Seven more Indian languages planned for the near future.

The bilingual update, which allows the Assistant to interchangeable switch between two languages, should roll out today.

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