gollum123 sends an excerpt from the NY Times on how Google has taken a lead in language translation, in one of the company's few unqualified successes as it attempts to broaden its offerings beyond search. "...Google's quick rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems. The network of data centers that it built for Web searches may now be, when lashed together, the world's largest computer. Google is using that machine to push the limits on translation technology. Last month, for example, it said it was working to combine its translation tool with image analysis, allowing a person to, say, take a cellphone photo of a menu in German and get an instant English translation. ...in the mid-1990s, researchers began favoring a so-called statistical approach. They found that if they fed the computer thousands or millions of passages and their human-generated translations, it could learn to make accurate guesses about how to translate new texts. It turns out that this technique, which requires huge amounts of data and lots of computing horsepower, is right up Google's alley. ...Google's service is good enough to convey the essence of a news article, and it has become a quick source for translations for millions of people."
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