5 Questions with… Renārs Liepiņš


We’ve talked to Peggy van der Kreeft (who manages news.bridge for Deutsche Welle), and we’ve talked to Yannick Estève (who represents the LIUM computer scientists involved in the project). Now it’s time to have a chat with Renārs Liepiņš – without whom news.bridge would be little more than a white paper and a collection of wire frames. Renārs is Senior Research Scientist at IMCS UL and LETA, founder and CEO of MindFlux, and project lead for LETA.

1) Renārs, when and how did you first get in touch with human language technology?

I first learned about HLT when I was working on tools for the semantic web during my PhD years (2010-2015). At the time HLT reached a new level; the output started to become useful. After my PhD, in early 2016, I began to work for the SUMMA project, which is about combining multiple HLT modules and creating a unified pipeline for automated media monitoring. The success of SUMMA made me think about other interesting combinations of HLT tools, and thus the idea for news.bridge was born.

2) What is the most fascinating aspect of news.bridge?

Well, first of all, it’s great to build a platform that saves people a lot of cumbersome routine work. Videos, audio tracks, and scripts processed with news.bridge aren’t perfect – but they require only minor tweaks. It’s also fascinating to explore the options of human-computer cooperation. news.bridge depends on smart algorithms and smart editors. We get the best results when they work in tandem.

3) What is the project’s biggest challenge?

It’s actually a combination of challenges: We need to scale the system so it can be used in a production environment of a big broadcaster and extend the UI to handle more workflows – all while keeping the platform as simple to use as possible.

4) Who’s in your team and what are they currently working on?

The LETA team consists of Roberts Dargis, Didzis Gosko, Mikus Grasmanis, and myself. Roberts and Didzis take care of the backend development and the integration of new HLT modules from internal and external partners. Mikus is responsible for the UI and does most of the front-end coding. I’m the project lead, which means I handle coordination with other partners as well as overall system architecture and integration.

5)  Where do you see news.bridge in five years?

I hope that news.bridge will have become a mature platform that helps media companies expand their markets and provide truly multilingual news all around the world.