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War of words

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One of China’s leading exponents of voice recognition was caught in the crossfire this week when a man said it was passing off his work as AI-based machine translation.

The trouble began when a Japanese professor spoke in English at an AI conference in Shanghai. A screen behind him showed a simultaneous translation into Chinese that was credited to iFlytek, a specialist in speech recognition technology. The conference was also broadcast online, with the translated material conveyed in a synthesised voice.

The following day an interpreter called Bell Wang said iFlytek was implying that the translation was made directly by machine, when it was actually transcribed from work he and a colleague did. “It was an outright lie,” he fumed. “The day may come when AI can actually understand natural languages and we lose our jobs, but it’s definitely not now.”

iFlytek later agreed to credit the interpreters in future transcriptions. But it also put out a statement denying that it had tried to present human interpreting as the work of its AI engine.


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