Microsoft’s tech can make your hologram speak another language

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This exec doesn’t speak Japanese — but it sure looks like she does.

You no longer need to speak another language to look like you’re fluent in it — to anyone, anywhere.

On Wednesday, Microsoft executive Julia White took the stage at the company’s Inspire partner conference to demonstrate how it’s now possible to not only create an incredibly life-like hologram of a person, but to then make the hologram speak another language in the person’s own voice.

This demo was possible thanks to a combination of two existing technologies — mixed reality and neural text-to-speech — and it foreshadows a future in which tech greatly diminishes existing barriers in human communication.

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A new immersive classroom uses AI and VR to teach Mandarin Chinese

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Students will learn the language by ordering food or haggling with street vendors on a virtual Beijing street.

Often the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in an environment where people speak it. The constant exposure, along with the pressure to communicate, helps you swiftly pick up and practice new vocabulary. But not everyone gets the opportunity to live or study abroad.

In a new collaboration with IBM Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a university based in Troy, New York, now offers its students studying Chinese another option: a 360-degree virtual environment that teleports them to the busy streets of Beijing or a crowded Chinese restaurant. Students get to haggle with street vendors or order food, and the environment is equipped with different AI capabilities to respond to them in real time. While the classroom is largely experimental, it is being used for the first time in a six-week, for-credit course at the university this summer.

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Turning to AI to save endangered languages

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Group of Yugambeh Aboriginal warriors dance.

As languages are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, speakers of endangered languages are turning to technology in a race against time to pass on their unique languages and cultures to the next generation.

The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages in an effort to promote awareness of the plight of languages that are in danger of disappearing. “Through language, people preserve their community’s history, customs and traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking, meaning and expression. They also use it to construct their future. Language is pivotal in the areas of human rights protection, good governance, peace building, reconciliation, and sustainable development”: all core aspects of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Thanks to the benefits of artificial intelligence for language documentation and learning, AI is becoming more important than ever in the fight to save endangered languages.

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Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet

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No language in history has dominated the world quite like English does today. Is there any point in resisting? By Jacob Mikanowski

On 16 May, a lawyer named Aaron Schlossberg was in a New York cafe when he heard several members of staff speaking Spanish. He reacted with immediate fury, threatening to call US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and telling one employee: “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English … This is America.” A video of the incident quickly went viral, drawing widespread scorn. The Yelp page for his law firm was flooded with one-star reviews, and Schlossberg was soon confronted with a “fiesta” protest in front of his Manhattan apartment building, which included a crowd-funded taco truck and mariachi band to serenade him on the way to work.

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Endangered Languages: Why do they face extinction?

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Portrait of a Warrior Asmat tribe in traditional headdress.

By definition, endangered languages are those that are facing extinction in the future. Several languages are not being used and are replaced by languages that are widely spoken in various countries and regions. If the trends are not reversed, the next century will see a few more of them becoming extinct.

Many older languages only have very few speakers since they are no longer taught or learned by younger people. When the last speakers of endangered languages die, the languages die with them, unless there are efforts to revive the language.

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The languages that take the the most (and least) time to learn

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So, you want to learn to speak and write a new language, huh? Not just “hello” and “thank you,” but really learn it well enough that you could live in the country of origin? Hope you’re ready to commit. If you’re a Native English Speaker, these are the languages that will take the most and least time to become proficient in.

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Scientists create ANNABELL, an artificial system capable of learning human language

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One of the most impressive complex cognitive processes is the ability to learn and creatively use language. It’s those processes that continue to set humans apart from even the most advanced machines. However, a team of scientists has now created an artificial system of neurons that is capable of learning words, phrases and syntax with no prior programming, thereby sustaining a dialog using processes that resemble mental actions.

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Research shows your view of the world changes with the language you speak

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There are a lot of perks that come with being bilingual.  Job prospects are better, a boost in cognitive abilities, and even protection from dementia.  Now new research shows that depending on the specific language they are operating in, they can also view the world in different ways.   Continue reading… “Research shows your view of the world changes with the language you speak”

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A mouse with a human speech gene learns faster

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The humanized gene actually improved the animal’s behavior rather than messing up the system.

According to a new study, mice that receive a human version of a speech and language gene display accelerated learning. Don’t expect these findings to lead to a rush of smarter, “uplifted” animals—though they might just reveal something new and fascinating about the evolution of human speech and language.

 

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You can learn a foreign language in your sleep: Study

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Swiss study finds memory for new words reinforced by listening again during sleep.

Most tricks for enhancing learning that seem too good to be true usually are. Learning a new language while you sleep has exactly this kind of ring to it. How can anything you listen to while you are asleep possibly have much effect on learning?

 

 

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