IIT Bombay designs AI-based translation app to help students from linguistic minorities
A professor and his team from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) have launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-based software ecosystem that translates scientific and technical content from English to Hindi and several other Indian languages.
This software —Project Udaan — launched at a virtual event on Tuesday, can translate engineering textbooks and learning material in one-sixth the time it would take for a team of domain and linguistic experts to work manually.
“The Indian Constitution requires every state and local authority to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minorities,” said professor Ganesh Ramakrishnan, IIT-B chair professor, department of computer science and engineering.
“Project Udaan’ will help translate scientific and technical terms into several languages other than English and could help students pursuing courses in engineering and technology,” he said.
Project Udaan is a donation-based project with an end-to-end ecosystem that helps in translation. “We have developed a very robust bilingual OCR (optical character recognition) technology and several post-editing tools by which we now have access to digital bilingual dictionaries in a machine-readable format. We are therefore able to use appropriate scientific and technical terms available in Hindi, instead of transliterating the English terms,” added Ramakrishnan.
However, Gopakumaran Thampi, principal of Thadomal Shahani Engineering College, Bandra, who was not involved with the work, said while the concept is keeping in mind the new National Education Policy (NEP) provisions giving aid to regional languages, the use of the software might be limiting. “There’s hardly been a case where students could not understand scientific terms because of the community they came from. And while it could be of aid for some, what will such students do once they graduate and enter the job market? There’ll be no software helping them there,” said Thampi.
Through donations, the IIT-B team aims to translate 500 engineering texts in Hindi in one year and 15 Indian languages in three years.