Just last month, Microsoft added six new text-to-speech languages to its Translator app for Android. Today, in a major announcement, the company has revealed that its Translator app for Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire now includes a new capability that allows end-users and third-party app developers to download free AI-powered offline translation packs. In addition, Android developers will now be able to integrate online and offline AI text translations into their apps by making use of the new Translator Local Feature preview with ease.
Although AI-powered neural machine translation (NMT) was first released on Microsoft Translator back in 2016, this was only made available online as these translation models required a lot of computing power to run. Then last year, this capability was tested to be used offline with some specific Android devices - ones which included a dedicated AI chip. Now, the company has managed to optimize the NMT algorithms in such a way that they can be powered by any modern device's CPU without needing to be equipped with the aforementioned chip. The tech giant considers this a significant milestone in the road to running AI-powered tools near the source of the data without using the computing power of the cloud - an ability also referred to as 'edge computing'.
The translations provided by the NMT offline packs are said to be of much higher quality than the ones offered by non-neural offline language packs available previously. Microsoft reports up to 23 percent better quality of the produced NMT translations, and about 50 percent smaller pack sizes. A complete list of the languages in which these packs are currently available can be viewed here.
Furthermore, the new Translator Local Feature is currently available in preview for Android developers. As a result of the introduction of the offline NMT packs, developers can now add downloadable translations to their apps as well, enabling offline users to access these translation packs easily. More information regarding this feature is available in its GitHub documentation.
Currently, the availability of offline translation packs is limited to Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire devices. However, support for Windows devices will be arriving soon as well. Moreover, the Translator Local feature is expected to be made generally available within 90 days of the preview release.