What can a kid do better than Siri? #StuffWeLearn
A few months ago, the interwebs went mad over the fact that Google's bots had developed a language translation mechanism all by themselves. This meant that machine learning is a thing, that it's real and happening.
Terminator aside for a moment, let's appreciate how good machines have become at language. Not only can Google pick up what language is being spoken and translate it into the one you usually use, but Alexa, Amazon Echo and Siri have gotten remarkably good at listening and recognising spoken words. Alexa can even detect when you're speaking to her versus anyone else in the room. But they all struggle with this:
I mean, you probably struggle with it too. This is an Icelandic word meaning "a toolshed at Vaðlaheiði". Yes. It is a real word, and it exists because Icelandic is a polysynthetic language, which allows users to keep adding parts to give more detail to the meaning.
You know who doesn't struggle to learn Icelandic? Children. The long words help them understand the meaning even if they mishear certain parts. This suggests that the way machines learn is much more like the way adults learn than children.
If machines can't learn Icelandic, it's likely to drop out of use which would be sad for many native speakers, so they're seriously considering investing close to 10 million dollars in tech that can adapt to Icelandic's adaptable form.
Is an obscure language worth that much money? What do you think?