Alta Vista is partnering with translation software vendor Systran Software to offer real time machine translation on the Web.
Alta Vista, a subsidiary of Digital Equipment, will offer the free service on its Internet search site (http:/www.altavista.digital.com)
Users will be able to have Web pages translated to and from English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. This will, for instance, allow people who don?t understand French to retrieve and read articles from French newspapers.
Users simply cut and paste any text to the Alta Vista translation window. and push the ?translate? button. They can also cut and paste a URL, and get a translated version of a Web page that maintains the original HTML layout.
The service was briefly available on Tuesday, but was then temporarily removed when the site was overrun by users, a company spokesperson explained. But Alta Vista hopes to have it back up soon.
Systran?s pioneering machine translation technology has been around for almost 30 years. The company currently offers the technology in a number of different forms, including a number of PC software packages (such as Systran Professional for Windows) and a fee-based online service called Systranet.
Systranet translates texts using a Java applet that downloads from Systran?s Web site. Users are charged oneUS cent per word for translations.
The free service on Alta Vista provides only rudimentary translation quality. The first few lines of this article, translated to French and back to English, read as follows: ?Alta Vista partnering with the software of Systran of manufacturer of software of translation to offer machine translation in real time on the Web. Alta Vista, a subsidiary company of corp. of numerical hardware, will offer the free service on its site of search for Internet (http:/www.altavista.digital.com).?
The system has most difficulty with long texts that contain specialised jargon, doing slightly better with simple email messages.
At the Comdex/Fall show in November, Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products from Belgium announced a similar, but fee-based system based on its own machine translation technology. Lernout & Hauspie then said it would set up a pilot system by the end of the year, with commercial exploitation starting in Q2 of 1998.
Professional users are expected to pay a monthly fee of $100-200 for the service, with cheaper pricing options for consumers. Lernout & Hauspie?s system chiefly differs from the Alta Vista solution in that it also offers the option of ordering, online, a better quality, human-made translation.
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