Google Wants Better A.I.

Google's director of research, Alfred Spector, explains why artificial intelligence is crucial to the search company's future in areas like natural language, machine learning and speech recognition. 

What's the Latest Development?

When Google recently hosted a National Academy of Engineering meeting, the head of the company's research department, Alfred Spector, sat down to discuss Google's long-term vision of search and what the company needs to keep innovating. In a few words, better artificial intelligence (A.I.). The Google approach to A.I. uses hybrid artificial intelligence, augmenting computer capabilities with the power of crowd sourcing. With voice, for example, crowd sourcing is used to confirm that a computer has correctly recognized an utterance. 

What's the Big Idea?

One example of a practical tool that has resulted from Google's work with A.I. is its translation service. "Our translation tools can now use parsing—understanding the grammatical parts of a sentence. We used to train our translation just statistically, by comparing texts in different languages. Parsing now goes along with that, so we can assign parts of speech to sentences. Take the sentence 'The dog crossed the road': 'the dog' is the subject, 'crossed' is a verb, 'the road' is the object. This makes our translations better," says Spector. 

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