On visit to Seattle, Iceland’s president has a message for Amazon and Microsoft – GeekWire

Maria J. Smith
Iceland’s President Guðni Jóhannesson speaks at the Nordic Innovation Summit in Seattle on May well 19, 2022. (Livestream screenshot)

Never forget about the less common languages when setting up electronic units and software package.

That was the information to community tech giants Microsoft and Amazon from the president of Iceland on his check out to Seattle this 7 days.

“No language need to be left guiding,” President Guðni Jóhannesson told attendees at the Nordic Innovation Summit on Thursday. The party was held at the Countrywide Nordic Museum in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

Jóhannesson said he doesn’t have a difficulty with English — his spouse is Canadian-born Eliza Reid — but that it is significant to maintain languages that are spoken by scaled-down populations. The country of Iceland is about 366,000 folks.

“We want to dwell in a modern society where nobody is still left powering, and know-how should be a power for great.”

Jóhannesson shared his problems through a panel with Nikko Strom, a distinguished scientist with Amazon, and Arul Menezes, a distinguished engineer with Microsoft.

Amazon’s Alexa speaks 17 languages, Strom explained. Icelandic is not 1 of them.

The firm is adding languages, but it normally takes time and there are some privacy challenges with language datasets, Strom stated. Amazon is employing new strategies to pace up the rate. Alternatively of heading 1 language at a time, it is now employing equipment learning and AI “where just one language can understand from another language,” he said.

“We want all people to be in a position to use Alexa,” Strom stated. “That’s our purpose.”

Jóhannesson stated his nation has developed large databases capturing the Icelandic language that it is delighted to share with engineering companies for inclusion with components and computer software.

The Microsoft Translator app is conversant in 111 languages, Menezes reported. That does include things like Icelandic, but not Sámi, which encompasses numerous languages spoken in Northern Europe.

Menezes agreed with the value of like a variety of languages in know-how products. He mentioned that Microsoft has its AI for Cultural Heritage initiative, which is functioning to preserve endangered languages.

“Language is the basis for culture and culture,” he mentioned.

Jóhannesson also lifted the difficulty of tech obtain for folks with disabilities. Voice activated gadgets can be lifetime switching for anyone with physical limits. Speech-to-text instruments help persons for who are audio impaired, while audio gamers assist the blind.

“We want to dwell in a society the place no one is left guiding,” Jóhannesson claimed, “and technological innovation will have to be a power for excellent.”

In the course of a keynote chat previous the panel, the president illustrated tech’s language limitations by conversing with Siri, Apple’s digital personalized assistant.

“Hey Siri, do you talk Icelandic?” he requested. Her response: “Hmm. I really don’t have an response for that. Is there something else I can support with?”

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