“Conquering Babel”

“Simultaneous translation by computer is getting closer”
From The Economist, Jan 5th, 2013, Seattle – from the print edition

IN “STAR TREK”, a television series of the 1960s, no matter how far across the universe the Starship Enterprise travelled, any aliens it encountered would converse in fluent Californian English. It was explained that Captain Kirk and his crew wore tiny, computerised Universal Translators that could scan alien brainwaves and simultaneously convert their concepts into appropriate English words.

Science fiction, of course. But the best sci-fi has a habit of presaging fact. Many believe the flip-open communicators also seen in that first “Star Trek” series inspired the design of clamshell mobile phones. And, on a more sinister note, several armies and military-equipment firms are working on high-energy laser weapons that bear a striking resemblance to phasers. How long, then, before automatic simultaneous translation becomes the norm, and all those tedious language lessons at school are declared redundant?

Not, perhaps, as long as language teachers, interpreters and others who make their living from mutual incomprehension might like. A series of announcements over the past few months from sources as varied as mighty Microsoft and string-and-sealing-wax private inventors suggest that workable, if not yet perfect, simultaneous-translation devices are now close at hand.

Over the summer, Will Powell, an inventor in London, demonstrated a system that translates both sides of a conversation between English and Spanish speakers—if they are patient, and speak slowly. Each interlocutor wears a hands-free headset linked to a mobile phone, and sports special goggles that display the translated text like subtitles in a foreign film.

In November, NTT DoCoMo, the largest mobile-phone operator in Japan, introduced a service that translates phone calls between Japanese and English, Chinese or Korean. Each party speaks consecutively, with the firm’s computers eavesdropping and translating his words in a matter of seconds. The result is then spoken in a man’s or woman’s voice, as appropriate.

Microsoft’s contribution is perhaps the most beguiling. When Rick Rashid, the firm’s chief research officer, spoke in English at a conference in Tianjin in October, his peroration was translated live into Mandarin, appearing first as subtitles on overhead video screens, and then as a computer-generated voice. Remarkably, the Chinese version of Mr Rashid’s speech shared the characteristic tones and inflections of his own voice.


Though the three systems are quite different, each faces the same problems. The first challenge is to recognise and digitise speech. In the past, speech-recognition software has parsed what is being said into its constituent sounds, known as phonemes. There are around 25 of these in Mandarin, 40 in English and over 100 in some African languages. Statistical speech models and a probabilistic technique called Gaussian mixture modelling are then used to identify each phoneme, before reconstructing the original word. This is the technology most commonly found in the irritating voice-mail jails of companies’ telephone-answering systems. It works acceptably with a restricted vocabulary, but try anything more free-range and it mistakes at least one word in four.

The translator Mr Rashid demonstrated employs several improvements. For a start, it aims to identify not single phonemes but sequential triplets of them, known as senones. English has more than 9,000 of these. If they can be recognised, though, working out which words they are part of is far easier than would be the case starting with phonemes alone.

Microsoft’s senone identifier relies on deep neural networks, a mathematical technique inspired by the human brain. Such artificial networks are pieces of software composed of virtual neurons. Each neuron weighs the strengths of incoming signals from its neighbours and send outputs based on those to other neighbours, which then do the same thing. Such a network can be trained to match an input to an output by varying the strengths of the links between its component neurons.

One thing known for sure about real brains is that their neurons are arranged in layers. A deep neural network copies this arrangement. Microsoft’s has nine layers. The bottom one learns features of the processed sound waves of speech. The next layer learns combinations of those features, and so on up the stack, with more sophisticated correlations gradually emerging. The top layer makes a guess about which senone it thinks the system has heard. By using recorded libraries of speech with each senone tagged, the correct result can be fed back into the network, in order to improve its performance.

Microsoft’s researchers claim that their deep-neural-network translator makes at least a third fewer errors than traditional systems and in some cases mistakes as few as one word in eight. Google has also started using deep neural networks for speech recognition (although not yet translation) on its Android smartphones, and claims they have reduced errors by over 20%. Nuance, another provider of speech-recognition services, reports similar improvements. Deep neural networks can be computationally demanding, so most speech-recognition and translation software (including that from Microsoft, Google and Nuance) runs in the cloud, on powerful online servers accessible in turn by smartphones or home computers. (…)

Read the entire article here

The Third Annual Health 2.0 Europe Conference in Berlin

6 – 7 November 2012, Berlin, Germany.
Healthcare is changing profoundly due to new web and mobile applications. The conference Health 2.0 Europe addresses recent developments in this emerging field. The 2012 edition features exciting live technology demos and panels dedicated to answering the most urgent questions in health care.

The Health 2.0 Europe conference promotes a new ecosystem for health innovation, and gathers together over 300 health entrepreneurs, IT solution providers, health professionals, patient organizations, health authorities, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, telecom groups, VCs and financiers, policy makers, and many more.

A few examples from the 50+ LIVE technology demos presented at the conference

  • iDoc24 cell phone-based dermatology consultation service
  • Isabel symptom checker empowering patients to search the right information and ask the right questions
  • Drugee platform collecting adverse drug reactions from patients and health professionals
  • Thryve mobile food coach, which listens to your body and helps you figure out what you should eat more of, and what you should avoid
  • Medting web-based platform for clinical case collaboration allowing doctors to request second opinions from other doctors around the world

The Health 2.0 Europe 2012 Agenda topics include

  • Patient communities and physician networks
  • Health 2.0: transforming hospitals and physicians’ practices
  • Financing Health 2.0
  • Compliance, Chronic Care and Population Health Management
  • Health promotion and Wellness 2.0
  • Sexual health, mental health, addictions, and other “unmentionables”

Inspirational speakers Tim KELSEY, the Executive Director of Transparency and Open Data for the UK Government, and Peter LEVIN, the Senior Advisor to the Secretary and CTO at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, will be among the 75 speakers carefully selected from over 25 different countries.

A special session on Health 2.0 for Pharma, moderated by Alexander SCHACHINGER of Healthcare 42 in Germany, will discuss how to best collaborate with doctors and about engaging patients. The session will also address questions on how to make the most of data, how to unleash clinical development, and how to avoid the numerous potential pitfalls.

To encourage their participation, Health 2.0 Europe is extending free registration for patient organization representatives.

Promoting ideation and innovation from all angles, Health 2.0 Europe 2012 also features a two-day “Code-A-Thon” on November 3 – 4 that brings together developers, designers, healthcare professionals and patients to create new and exciting applications for improved health and wellness. Registration to this event is free and 9,000 € in cash prizes will be distributed to the winners.

Register today for best way to get up to speed with the latest developments in Health 2.0.

For further information, please visit:

About Health 2.0 Europe
Health 2.0 Europe is the premier conference exploring how web, mobile and social technologies are transforming health care systems in Europe. As an organization, Health 2.0 has introduced over 500 technology companies to the world stage, hosted more than 9,000 attendees at conferences and code-a-thons, awarded over $1,400,000 in prizes through developer challenge programs and inspired the formation of 46 new city chapters around the globe. Health 2.0 isn’t a company, it’s a movement.

Lyon conference workshop – Boost your use of Twitter

Last weekend, I attended the annual ProZ.com France conference in Lyon, which was not only a great opportunity to return to the city where I studied and lived for five years, but also to see the French translation crowd again – many I hadn’t seen since the Nice conference in 2009, the Paris event in 2008 or for some, even the Aix en Provence conference in 2007! We had a great time and the atmosphere was relaxed and happy.

The event was the opportunity to give a presentation on Internet Marketing for the first time ever in French – which is quite amusing when you think about it, given that I am French. Anyway, it was also the first time that I spoke to a French audience on those topics and I was curious to learn about the relationship between social media tools and my own fellow translation country(wo)men. Although the group was very small, the presentation was extremely interactive – just the way I love it! Actually, forget I said “presentation”. It was a discussion, and a very interesting and lively one at that. It was a pity I didn’t have more time – again, I know! How time flies when you’re in good company with interesting questions and feedback.

The topics I presented were 1. Twitter (how to use it to gain visibility and boost your online reputation) and 2. Facebook – privacy issues to protect your personal life and reputation on the Web (unfortunately not enough time for that one, we had to rush through it, but we covered some main points presented in this article and in this one in very basic terms).

Here is the Twitter presentation (in French) available for download: Twitter presentation FR Lyon 2012 –

– many thanks to the attendees. I hope you enjoyed the workshop and more importantly, that it helped you in some way. That was, after all, the objective. And as promised, if you have any questions or need anything, just send me an e-mail!

Thanks again to John for once more giving us the opportunity to meet, exchange and party. I’m really looking forward to the 2013 French conference!

Europäische Unternehmen investieren trotz Krise stärker in Forschung und Entwicklung

Dienstag, den 28. August 2012 – Führende Unternehmen in der EU gehen davon aus, dass ihre Investitionen in Forschung und Entwicklung (FuE) im Zeitraum 2012-2014 jährlich um durchschnittlich 4 % steigen werden. So das Ergebnis einer Umfrage, die die Kommission bei einigen der am stärksten in FuE investierenden europäischen Unternehmen durchgeführt hat. Die Zahlen zeigen, welche Bedeutung die betreffenden Unternehmen – trotz der aktuellen wirtschaftlichen Probleme – Forschung und Entwicklung als zentralem Faktor für ihr künftiges Wachstum und ihren Erfolg beimessen. Spitzenreiter ist die Branche der Software- und Computerdienstleistungen, die mit einem Anstieg der FuE-Investitionen um durchschnittlich 11 % pro Jahr rechnet. Unternehmensinterne Forschung und Entwicklung wird von den befragten Unternehmen als wichtigster Innovationstreiber gesehen, gefolgt von Marktforschung und damit verbundenen Tätigkeiten zur Einführung neuer Produkte.
“Dieser positive Trend bei den FuE-Investitionen der Unternehmen ist von entscheidender Bedeutung für Europas Wettbewerbsfähigkeit”, so Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU‑Kommissarin für Forschung, Innovation und Wissenschaft. “Diese Unternehmen sind die wichtigsten Triebkräfte der Entwicklung hin zu einer stärker wissensbasierten und intelligenteren europäischen Wirtschaft. Unser künftiges Programm für Forschung und Innovation “Horizont 2000″ wird innovativen Unternehmen weiteren Auftrieb geben.”

Was den Einfluss der Politikmaßnahmen und externer Faktoren auf ihre Innovationstätigkeit anbelangt, verwiesen die befragten Unternehmen auf die starke positive Wirkung von steuerlichen Anreizen, staatlichen Finanzhilfen, EU-Fördermitteln und öffentlich-privaten Partnerschaften auf nationaler wie auch auf EU-Ebene. Negativ auf ihre Innovationstätigkeit ausgewirkt haben sich nach Angaben zahlreicher Unternehmen der für den Schutz der Rechte des geistigen Eigentums erforderliche Zeitaufwand und die damit verbundenen Kosten. Dies bestätigt, wie wichtig mit Blick auf die Förderung der Innovationstätigkeit der Unternehmen eine effiziente Regelung der Rechte des geistigen Eigentums ist.

Von den befragten Unternehmen wurden auch Angaben dazu erbeten, welche Bedeutung die verschiedenen Wege des Wissensaustauschs für sie haben. Kooperationsvereinbarungen mit anderen Unternehmen stehen hier an erster Stelle. Von Unternehmen, die in Branchen mit hoher FuE-Intensität tätig sind, wurden an zweiter Stelle Einlizensierung/Auslizensierung und danach Vereinbarungen mit Hochschulen und anderen öffentlichen Forschungseinrichtungen genannt. Für Unternehmen in Branchen mit mittlerer oder geringer FuE-Intensität sind Kooperationsvereinbarungen mit Hochschulen und anderen öffentlichen Forschungseinrichtungen wichtiger als Lizenzvergaben. Generell zeigen die Ergebnisse, welch große Bedeutung viele Unternehmen diesen verschiedenen Wegen des Wissensaustauschs beimessen, was als Indiz dafür gewertet werden könnte, dass offene Innovation (“open innovation”) eine immer größere Rolle spielt.

Die EU-Erhebung über FuE-Investitionstrends in der Wirtschaft (“EU Survey on R&D Investment Business Trends”) wurde von der Gemeinsamen Forschungsstelle (JRC) der Europäischen Kommission (Institut für technologische Zukunftsforschung, IPTS) und der Generaldirektion Forschung und Innovation durchgeführt.

Die Ergebnisse der Erhebung basieren auf den Antworten von 187 überwiegend großen Unternehmen (von 1 000 Unternehmen mit Sitz in der EU, die im EU-Anzeiger für FuE-Investitionen der Industrie 2011 erfasst sind) (IP/11/1205 und MEMO/11/705). Die Befragung fand zwischen dem 16. Januar und dem 28. April 2012 statt.

Diese 187 Unternehmen stehen zusammengenommen für FuE-Investitionen in Höhe von fast 45 Mrd. EUR, was rund 40 % der gesamten FuE-Investitionen der 1 000 im EU‑Anzeiger erfassten Unternehmen und damit einem erheblichen Anteil an den FuE‑Investitionen der europäischen Unternehmen entspricht. Mit durchschnittlich 4 % ist der Anstieg etwas geringer ausgefallen als in der vorangegangenen Erhebung erwartet (5 %), was auf die Verschlechterung der wirtschaftlichen Rahmenbedingungen zurückzuführen ist.

Noch vor Ende 2012 wird die Europäische Kommission ihren nächsten EU-Anzeiger für FuE-Investitionen der Industrie veröffentlichen, der eine Rangfolge der weltweit größten in FuE investierenden Unternehmen enthält.

Die Erhebung kann auf folgender Website eingesehen werden: http://iri.jrc.es/reports.htm

Quelle: http://europa.eu

Event: “Cloud and Social Networking in Healthcare: What are the leaders doing?”

9 July 2012, London, United Kingdom.

Friday, June 15th – DocCom, provider of the first cloud-based enterprise social networking platform exclusively for healthcare, today announces that it is partnering with Microsoft to co-host an exclusive event for healthcare professionals that will explore the practical issues, potential pitfalls and transformative opportunities of cloud and social networking for healthcare. The half-day forum, entitled “The Cloud and Social Networking in Healthcare: What are the leaders doing?” is being held on Monday 9th July at Microsoft’s London offices in Cardinal Place. Attendance is encouraged from Medical Directors, CEOs and CIOs from NHS Trusts, and frontline clinicians and healthcare managers are also welcome to attend. Spaces are strictly limited and can be reserved by emailing events@doccom.info to register.
DocCom and Microsoft are hosting this key event to provide healthcare decision-makers with expert analysis of the practical application and benefits of cloud and social technologies in a clinical context, offering clear guidance on how healthcare organisations can harness the future of secure healthcare communication. DocCom will be presenting an overview of its cloud-based enterprise social networking solution for healthcare, which is built on the latest Microsoft Development Stack for enterprise grade security and compliance. The half-day session will feature key user case studies from DocCom’s customers, including Peter Aitken, Lead for Improvement at NIHR CLAHRC Southwest Peninsula, who will talk about the importance of Insight when trying to change human behaviour in healthcare; Kevin Cleary, Medical Director East London NHS Foundation Trust and Former Medical Director NPSA, who will be demonstrating how networks can improve safety by disseminating safety information; and Dr Clare Wedderburn, Associate Dean at Dorset GP, who will be exploring how the new relationships between acute and primary care will impact coordination and communication. With a strong focus on security and information governance issues, Nick Umney, Technical Specialist for Cloud at Microsoft, will give his insight on the opportunity cloud presents for healthcare, while Dr Jonathan Bloor, co-founder and medical director of DocCom and Dr Jonathon Shaw, co-founder and managing director of DocCom, will share their vision of how secure social networking can be used to make healthcare a safer and more efficient place.

Founded by doctors, DocCom is taking the very best social networking technology and applying it to the unique requirements of healthcare professionals – empowering healthcare teams to securely find, collaborate, communicate and share with each other effectively, and giving healthcare organisations the tools and insight to solve specific business problems in safety and efficiency. A 2011 NHS staff survey revealed that only 26 per cent of respondents felt that communication between senior managers and staff is effective, and less than a third (30 per cent) reported that senior managers act on feedback from staff. This backs up research carried out by DocCom which found that 90 per cent of Medical Directors have a problem communicating with their doctors. This frustration, caused by the lack of fit-for-purpose online communication platforms, has led to some staff taking the initiative to engineer their own “workaround” solutions, including use of third-party, non-healthcare-specific software and, in some cases, inappropriate use of social networking platforms such as Facebook – with potentially calamitous implications for data protection and patient confidentiality.

“Social networking and cloud technologies are now a fact of modern life, and innovators in the healthcare industry are now realising that these platforms can deliver immense benefits to healthcare teams, if harnessed in a secure, reliable and responsible way,” comments DocCom co-founder and medical director Dr Jonathan Bloor. He continues: “Effective communication saves lives, time and money. The impact of the human and financial costs associated with the poor organisational and cross-industry communication in healthcare is being clearly felt across all levels of healthcare delivery, from frontline staff to senior management. This event is aimed at helping medical directors and healthcare IT professionals to understand how an enterprise social networking system that is fully standards-compliant – and supported and endorsed by key healthcare management – can significantly improve clinical safety and efficiency within their own organisations.”

About DocCom
DocCom provides the first enterprise networking solution specifically designed to help healthcare professionals to connect, communicate and collaborate. DocCom is combining the best attributes of social and enterprise networking to create secure, cloud-based, healthcare-focused tools that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and via any device – supporting busy people delivering critical care. DocCom’s secure software solutions are designed by doctors who understand the unique privacy and operational challenges involved – making life easier for healthcare teams and clinical practice safer and more effective.

Translation Tools Could Save Less-Used Languages

Tom Simonite – Wednesday, June 6, 2012, Technology Review (published by MIT)

Languages that aren’t used online risk being left behind. New translation technology from Google and Microsoft could help them catch up.

Sometimes you may feel like there’s nothing worth reading on the Web, but at least there’s plenty of material you can read and understand. Millions of people around the world, in contrast, speak languages that are still barely represented online, despite widespread Internet access and improving translation technology.

Web giants Microsoft and Google are trying to change that with new translation technology aimed at languages that are being left behind—or perhaps even being actively killed off—by the Web. Although both companies have worked on translation technology for years, they have, until now, focused on such major languages of international trade as English, Spanish, and Chinese.

Microsoft and Google’s existing translation tools, which are free, are a triumph of big data. Instead of learning as a human translator would, by studying the rules of different languages, a translation tool’s algorithms learn how to translate one language into another by statistically comparing thousands or millions of online documents that have been translated by humans.

The two companies have both departed from that formula slightly to serve less popular languages. Google was able to recently launch experimental “alpha” support for a collection of five Indian languages (Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu) by giving its software some direct lessons in grammar, while Microsoft has released a service that allows a community to build a translation system for its own language by supplying its own source material.

Google first realized it needed to give its system a grammar lesson when trying to polish its Japanese translations, says Ashish Venugopal, a research scientist working on Google’s translation software. “We were producing sentences with the verb in the middle, but in Japanese, it needs to go at the end,” Venugopal says. The problem stemmed from the system being largely blind to grammar. The fix that the Google team came up with—adding some understanding of grammar—enabled the launch of the five Indic languages, all used by millions on the subcontinent but largely missing from the Web.

Google’s system was trained in grammar by giving it a large collection of sentences in which the grammatical parts had been labeled—more instruction than Google’s translation algorithms typically receive.

Venugopal says that, so far, the system can’t handle the underserved languages as well as Google’s existing translation technology can handle more established languages, such as French and German. But, he says, offering any support at all is important for languages that are relatively rare online. “It’s an important part of our mission to make those other languages available on the Web,” he says. “We don’t want people to have to decide whether to publish their blog in their own language or in English. We want to help the world read your blog.”

Microsoft is also interested in helping languages not in common use online, to prevent those languages from being sidelined and falling from use, says Kristin Tolle, a director at Microsoft Research. Her team recently launched a website that helps anyone to create their own translation software, called Translation Hub. It is intended for communities that wish to ensure their language is used online.

Using Translation Hub involves creating an account and then uploading source materials in the two languages to be translated between. Microsoft’s machine-learning algorithms use that material and can then attempt to translate any text written in the new language. Microsoft piloted that technology in collaboration with leaders of Fresno, California’s large Hmong community, for whose language a machine translation system does not exist.

“Allowing anyone to create their own translation model can help communities save their languages,” says Kristin Tolle, a director at Microsoft Research. Machine translation systems have been developed for roughly 100 of the world’s 7,000 languages, says Tolle.

“There is a lot of truth to what Microsoft is saying,” says Greg Anderson, director of nonprofit Living Tongues, which documents, researches, and tries to support disappearing languages. “Today’s playing field involves a digital online presence whether you are community or a company—if you don’t have a Web presence, you don’t exist, on some level.” Anderson says that sidelined languages making a comeback are usually those from communities that have embraced online life using their language.

Margaret Noori, a lecturer at University of Michigan who works to preserve the Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwe, a native American language, agrees, but adds that preserving a language involves more than the Web. “There is a reason to be online in today’s world, but it absolutely must be balanced by songs sung only aloud and ceremonies never recorded.”

Microsoft’s Translation Hub is also aimed at enabling the translation of specialist technical terms or jargon, which general purpose online translation tools do not handle well. Nonprofits could, for example, use it to translate materials on agricultural techniques, says Tolle, and the technology can also be useful to companies that wish to speed up translation of instruction manuals or other material.

“Companies often want to have their data available to them privately and retain their data—not to provide it to someone else that will train a translation system,” she says. Volvo and Mercedes have expressed an interest in testing Microsoft’s Translation Hub, says Tolle.

Tom Simonite – Wednesday, June 6, 2012,
Source:  Technology Review (published by MIT)

Meet our new Timeline!

Facebook is rolling out its new Timeline feature for Brand Pages this month and we were one of the first to adopt it. Visit our official Facebook Page now to discover its new feel and design! https://www.facebook.com/gxp.services

More info about Timeline and Brand Pages:

Facebook Rolls Out Fan Page Timeline
Facebook Timeline for Brands: What Does It Mean for Marketers?

Tell your Brand’s Story on Facebook Timeline