From Microsoft's AI blog:
A team of Microsoft researchers said Wednesday that they believe they have created the first machine translation system that can translate sentences of news articles from Chinese to English with the same quality and accuracy as a person.Researchers in the company’s Asia and U.S. labs said that their system achieved human parity on a commonly used test set of news stories, called newstest2017, which was developed by a group of industry and academic partners and released at a research conference called WMT17 last fall. To ensure the results were both accurate and on par with what people would have done, the team hired external bilingual human evaluators, who compared Microsoft’s results to two independently produced human reference translations.
Xuedong Huang, a technical fellow in charge of Microsoft’s speech, natural language and machine translation efforts, called it a major milestone in one of the most challenging natural language processing tasks.
“Hitting human parity in a machine translation task is a dream that all of us have had,” Huang said. “We just didn’t realize we’d be able to hit it so soon.”
Huang, who also led the group that recently achieved human parity in a conversational speech recognition task, said the translation milestone was especially gratifying because of the possibilities it has for helping people understand each other better.
“The pursuit of removing language barriers to help people communicate better is fantastic,” he said. “It’s very, very rewarding.”
Machine translation is a problem researchers have worked on for decades – and, experts say, for much of that time many believed human parity could never be achieved. Still, the researchers cautioned that the milestone does not mean that machine translation is a solved problem.Ming Zhou, assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia and head of a natural language processing group that worked on the project, said that the team was thrilled to achieve the human parity milestone on the dataset. But he cautioned that there are still many challenges ahead, such as testing the system on real-time news stories.Arul Menezes, partner research manager of Microsoft’s machine translation team, said the team set out to prove that its systems could perform about as well as a person when it used a language pair – Chinese and English – for which there is a lot of data, on a test set that includes the more commonplace vocabulary of general interest news stories....MUCH MORE