Automation hits multilingual workforce with real-time translation software for businesses

With the rise of chatbots and automated phone systems, telephone-based customer service roles have seen increasing automation. One skill that has protected many workers from having their jobs replaced by software, however, is the ability to speak multiple languages.

But while software-based translation has traditionally paled in comparison to a multilingual human being, that’s beginning to change. The first gadgets allowing humans to carry out a conversation across two languages are starting to be launched, and even Google’s own free services are getting in on the act.

Now, however, companies are likely to follow suit, with the launch of a software suite for companies in need of multilingual support for helpdesks and service support.

Developed by Lionbridge Technologies, the snappily named GeoFluent for Enterprise Service Management is a package of business software that includes over-the-phone interpretation for over 350 languages, as well as a virtual translator for digital communications such as email and chat and a self-service document translator.

As a result, it effectively eliminates the need for major companies to hire multilingual workers for any form of customer service, instead replacing their skills with software.

Customer service has seen significant automation in recent years, but multilingual workers have until now been relatively safe

For businesses, the software’s main benefit is its ability to save them money, by not hiring staff to speak multiple languages or offer translation services.

“Service desk agents have historically had limited options to deliver multilingual support. Customised real-time translation technology is an increasingly important piece of IT service management solutions, providing a high-quality, cost-effective alternative to hiring bilingual staff,”  Robert Young, research director of IT service management and client virtualisation software at International Data Corporation, said in a press release about the software.

“It’s a significant challenge for service desks to communicate effectively across languages, channels, geographies, and time zones. GeoFluent for Enterprise Service Management eliminates that complexity by leveraging unified interpretation and custom-trained AI-based translation to existing communications platforms and channels,” added Tom Tseki, Lionbridge’s vice president and general management, customer care solutions.

“This platform and channel-agnostic approach allows service desks to cost-effectively eliminate language barriers wherever they exist.”

Manufacturing was one of the first industries to see significant automation in the modern era, but other roles are increasingly being affected

While those watching the technology’s developed will unlikely be surprised by the development, for many it will come as a surprise that multilingual skills can be so completely automated.

However, it is yet another example of skillset that not long ago was thought to be completely safe from the oncoming march of automation, but which is now under threat.

Many journalists, for example, are feeling less confident about their own roles with the advent of news-writing bots, while AI composers are likely to be raising some concern in the creative industries.

Using CRISPR, UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos

For the first time in the UK, scientists have altered human embryos. Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, the scientists turned off the protein OCT4, which is thought to be important in early embryo development. In doing so, cells that normally go on to form the placenta, yolk sac and foetus failed to develop.

Source: BBC

Tesla and AMD developing AI chip for self-driving cars

Tesla has partnered with AMD to develop a dedicated chip that will handle autonomous driving tasks in its cars. Tesla's Autopilot programme is currently headed by former AMD chip architect Jim Keller, and it is said that more than 50 people are working on the initiative under his leadership.

Source: CNBC

Synthetic muscle developed that can lift 1,000 times its own weight

Scientists have used a 3D printing technique to create an artificial muscle that can lift 1,000 times its own weight. "It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It's the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle," said Dr Aslan Miriyev, from the Creative Machines lab.

Source: Telegraph

Head of AI at Google criticises "AI apocalypse" scaremongering

John Giannandrea, the senior vice president of engineering at Google, has condemned AI scaremongering, promoted by people like Elon Musk ."I just object to the hype and the sort of sound bites that some people have been making," said Giannandrea."I am definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse."

Source: CNBC

Scientists engineer antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains

Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and is built to attack three critical parts of the virus, which makes it harder for the HIV virus to resist its effects. The International Aids Society said it was an "exciting breakthrough". Human trials will begin in 2018.

Source: BBC

Facebook has a plan to stop fake news from influencing elections

Mark Zuckerberg has outlined nine steps that Facebook will take to "protect election integrity". “I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity," he said during a live broadcast on his Facebook page. "I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine our democracy.”

Renault unveils unorthodox ‘car of the future’: a dockable, peanut-shaped driverless pod

Renault has unveiled its take on the car of the future: a peanut-shaped, mulit-directional driverless vehicle that is capable of docking into a train of vehicles.

Designed by Yuchen Cai, a student of Central St Martins’ MA in Industrial Design, the vehicle is the winning design in competition run between Renault and the prestigious design school, and was honed during a two-week stay at Renault’s Paris studio by Cai this summer.

Dubbed The Float, the vehicle was unveiled today at DesignJunction, a four-day design event that kicked off today in London.

“Everyone has accepted that cars will be part of the sharing economy in the future – that’s what’s going to happen,” said Will Sorrel, event director of DesignJunction, this morning.

“This takes it one step further and these pods are this peanut shape so they can join together, so the autonomous vehicles can link up and join together if they’re going in the same direction, conserving energy.”

The Float by Yuchen Cai, winner of the Renault and Central Saint Martins, UAL competition

The Float is rather unusually designed to run using magnetic levitation – known more commonly as maglev – and would be capable of moving in any direction, eliminating the need for tedious three-point turns.

Made entirely of glass, the vehicle is designed to have sliding doors. Two bucket-style seats enable up to two passengers to travel per pod, and swivel mechanism ensures easy departure from the pods.

When the vehicle is docked to another, however, the passengers aren’t just stuck grimacing at each other through glass. Instead passengers can rotate their seats using built-in controls and power up a sound system that allows them to talk to the pod next door.

Those who are feeling less sociable can change the opacity of the glass, ensuring privacy when their neighbours are not so appealing to communicate with.

The Float is also designed to be paired with a smartphone app, through which would-be passengers could hail a vehicle as required.

“Central Saint Martins’ Industrial Design students really took this on board when creating their vision of the future,” said Anthony Lo, Renault’s  vice-president of exterior design and one of the competition judges. “Yuchen’s winning design was particularly interesting thanks to its use of Maglev technology and its tessellated design. It was a pleasure to have her at the Renault design studios and see her vision come to life.”

“From a technological viewpoint, the prospect of vehicle autonomy is fascinating, but it’s also critical to hold in mind that such opportunities also present significant challenges to how people interact and their experience of future cities,” added Nick Rhodes, Central Saint Martins programme director of product ceramic & industrial design.

“Recognition of the success of the projects here lies in their ability to describe broader conceptions of what driverless vehicles might become and how we may come to live with them.”