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.

Adding stem cells to the brains of mice “slowed or reversed” ageing

Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists “slowed or reversed” ageing in mice by injecting stem cells into their brains.

The study, published online in the journal Nature, saw the scientists implant stem cells into mice’s hypothalamus, which caused molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs) to be released.

The miRNA molecules were then extracted from the hypothalamic stem cells and injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of two groups of mice: middle-aged mice whose hypothalamic stem cells had been destroyed and normal middle-aged mice.

This treatment significantly slowed aging in both groups of animals as measured by tissue analysis and behavioural testing that involved assessing changes in the animals’ muscle endurance, coordination, social behaviour and cognitive ability.

“Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal, and this decline accelerates aging,” said senior author Dongsheng Cai, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular pharmacology at Einstein.

“But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible. By replenishing these stem cells or the molecules they produce, it’s possible to slow and even reverse various aspects of aging throughout the body.”

To reach the conclusion that stem cells in the hypothalamus held the key to aging, the scientists first looked at the fate cells in the hypothalamus as healthy mice got older.

The number of hypothalamic stem cells began to diminish when the mice reached about 10 months, which is several months before the usual signs of aging start appearing. “By old age—about two years of age in mice—most of those cells were gone,” said Dr. Cai.

Images courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

The researchers next wanted to learn whether this progressive loss of stem cells was actually causing aging and was not just associated with it.

To do this, the scientists observed what happened when they selectively disrupted the hypothalamic stem cells in middle-aged mice.

“This disruption greatly accelerated aging compared with control mice, and those animals with disrupted stem cells died earlier than normal,” said Dr. Cai.

Finally, to work out whther adding stem cells to the hypothalamus counteracted ageing, the scientists injected hypothalamic stem cells into the brains of middle-aged mice whose stem cells had been destroyed as well as into the brains of normal old mice.

In both groups of animals, the treatment slowed or reversed various measures of aging.

The scientists are now trying to identify the particular populations of microRNAs that are responsible for the anti-aging effects seen in mice, which is perhaps the first step toward slowing the aging process and successfully treating age-related diseases in humans.

Self-driving delivery cars coming to UK roads by 2018

A driverless vehicle designed to deliver goods to UK homes is set to take to the road next year after the successful conclusion of an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Developed by engineers at The University of Aberystwyth-based startup The Academy of Robotics, the vehicle, Kar-Go, is road-legal, and capable of driving on roads without any specific markings without human intervention.

Kar-Go has successfully raised £321,000 through Crowdcube – 107% of its goal – meaning the company now has the funds to build its first commercially ready vehicles. This amount will also, according to William Sachiti, Academy of Robotics founder and CEO, be matched by “one of the largest tech companies” in the world.

Images courtesy of Academy of Robotics

The Academy of Robotics has already built and tested a prototype version of Kar-Go, and is working with UK car manufacturer Pilgrim to produce the fully street-legal version.

The duo has already gained legal approval from the UK government’s Centre for Autonomous Vehicles, meaning the cars will be able to immediately operate on UK roads once built.

The aim of Kar-Go is to partner with suppliers of everyday consumer goods to significantly reduce the cost of deliveries, and the company’s goal in this area is ambitious: Sachiti believes Kar-Go could reduce delivery costs by as much as 98%.

Whether companies go for the offering remains to be seen, but the company says it is in early stage discussions with several of the largest fast-moving consumer goods companies in Europe, which would likely include the corporations behind some of the most recognisable brands found in UK supermarkets.

Introducing Kar-go Autonomous Delivery from Academy of Robotics on Vimeo.

While some will be sceptical, Sachiti is keen to drive the company to success, and already has an impressive track record in future-focused business development. He previously founded Clever Bins – the solar powered digital advertising bins found in many of the nation’s cities – and digital concierge service MyCityVenue – now part of SecretEscapes.

“As a CEO, it is one of my primary duties to make sure Kar-go remains a fantastic investment, this can only be achieved by our team producing spectacular results. We can’t wait to show the world what we produce,” he said.

“We have a stellar team who are excited to have begun working on what we believe will probably be the best autonomous delivery vehicle in the world. For instance, our multi-award winning lead vehicle designer is part of the World Championship winning Brabham Formula One design team, and also spent years as a Design Engineer at McLaren.”