news.bridge Goes Public Beta – Join Us for the Language Technology Hands-On Days in Bonn

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Very good news: 10 months into our language tech innovation project, we’re ready to share what we’ve built – and we’d like your opinion on it!

So if you’re interested in testing our platform and finding out more about state-of-the-art transcription, translation, summarization and voice-over software, don’t forget to save the date:

November 21st & November 22nd

Our Language Technology Hands-on Days (with workshops focusing on automated subtitles creation) will take place at the DW headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

To join us, simply send an email to info@newsbridge.eu. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Please note that space is limited, and early registration is advised.

The Language Technology Hands-on Days are part of a larger meeting held by SUMMA, our EU-funded sister project applying language technologies to media monitoring. In case you’d like to take a closer look, you can also register for the SUMMA user day (which takes place on November 20th).

More details and workshop schedules coming up soon.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in Bonn this November!

#lthodays18

Meet us in London and Bonn

Our colleagues at the BBC are hosting two very interesting hackathons focused on human language technology in (news) media production, and we’re happy to spread the word:

textAV will take place in London on September 18th and 19th. It caters to “technologists, application developers, and practitioners working in the area of online audio and video, with a particular focus on the use of captions and transcripts to facilitate and speed up the production process”. For more information and a schedule, check out the textAV eventbrite page. Please note that web registration has already ended. A few tickets may still be available via textav@bbcnewslabs.co.uk.

Summa #newsHACK (Pt. II), co-hosted by news.bridge partner Deutsche Welle, will take place in Bonn on October 9th and 10h. The central question of this event will be: “How could cutting-edge language processing technology transform your newsroom?” Developers, designers, and innovation managers will have access to the powerful Summa platform, which offers services for automated translation, entity extraction, topic detection, summarisation, and story clustering. Check out the Summa #newsHACK eventbrite page to learn more.

Several members of the news.bridge consortium will join the HLT design sprints in London and Bonn, so make sure to say hi if you’re also attending. Get in touch any time via info@newsbridge.eu or @newsbridge_hlt. We’re looking forward to seeing you at textAV and Summa #newsHACK!

Meet us in Bonn

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re a part of this year’s Global Media Forum (GMF), which will take place in Bonn from June 11th to June 13th.

GMF, hosted by news.bridge partner Deutsche Welle (DW), is an annual get-together of representatives from the fields of journalism, digital media, politics, culture, business, development, academia and civil society. Their main concern: analyze global media development, tackle problems, brainstorm solutions.

In 2018, GMF will be all about “global inequalities” — which can also be reduced by breaking down language barriers and fostering polyglot public service broadcasting, for example with state-of-the-art HLT tools.

Make sure to catch our session:

news.bridge: Automated translation – are we there yet?
Wednesday, June 13th, 11:30h to 12:00h
World Conference Center (Rondel)

Our team will be in Bonn for the entire conference, so feel free to drop us a line (via email or Twitter) and have a chat with us. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the GMF!

More info: dw-global-media-forum.com

Meet us in Munich, Alicante, and Strasbourg

We have a couple of conferences and meetings coming up – and it would be great to see you there and discuss news.bridge. Don’t hesitate to get in touch via email oder Twitter if you’re attending one of the following events:

Subtech 1 – Symposium on Subtitling Technology

Munich, Germany | May 24th & 25th
Official Website

21st Annual Conference of the European Association for Machine Translation

Alicante, Spain | May 28th – 30th
Official Website

news.bridge arte showcase

Strasbourg, France | June 15th
Note: This one is a non-public meeting. Please get in touch with arte for more information.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!

Insights from our first user testing sessions

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newsbridge_user_testing

Getting early input from the people you are designing for is absolutely essential – which is why we invited about a dozen colleagues to give the latest beta version of news.bridge a test run at the DW headquarters in Bonn last month. We had two really inspiring sessions with journalists, project managers and other media people working for DW and associated companies — and we have gained a number of useful insights. While some of them are too project-specific to share (news.bridge is not in public beta yet), there are also more general learnings that should make for an interesting journo tech blog post. Here we go:

Infrastructure and preparation

When inviting people to simultaneously stream and play around with news videos, make sure you have enough bandwidth. This may sound trivial, but it’s important, especially in Germany (which doesn’t even make the Top 20 when it comes to internet connection speed).

To document what your beta testers have to say as quickly and convenient as possible, we recommend to prepare digital questionnaires (e.g. Google Forms) and send out a link well before the end of the session. That way, you get solid feedback from everyone. It’s also a good idea to add a screenshot/comment feature (e.g. html2canvas) to the platform that is being tested. In addition, open discussions and interview-type interactions provide very useful feedback.

Testing automatic speech recognition (ASR) tools

Thanks to artificial neural networks, ASR services have become incredibly sophisticated in the last couple of years and deliver very decent results. Basically all of our test users said the technology will significantly speed up the tiresome transcription process when producing multilingual news videos.

However, ASR still has trouble when:

  • people speak with a heavy dialect and/or in incomplete sentences (like some European football coaches who shall not be named)
  • people speak simultaneously (which frequently happens at press conferences, for example)
  • complicated proper names occur (Aung San Suu Kyi, Hery Rajaonarimampianina)
  • homophones occur (merry, marry, Mary)
  • there is a lot of background noise (which is often interpreted as language and transcribed to gibberish)

As a result, journalists will almost certainly have to do thorough post-editing for a while and also correct (or add) punctuation, which is crucial for the subsequent translation.

Testing machine translation (MT) tools

What has been said about ASR also applies to MT: The tech has made huge leaps, but results are not perfect yet. Especially when you are a professional editor and thus have high standards. Something really important to remember:

The better and more structured your transcript (or uploaded original script),
the better the translation you end up with.

As for the limits of machine translation during our testrun, we found that “exotic” languages like Pashto (which is really important for international broadcasters like DW) are not implemented really well. Few services cover them, and the translation results are subpar. This is not a big surprise, of course, as the corpus used to train the algorithms is so much smaller than that of a major Western language like French or German. This also means that it is up to projects like news.bridge to improve MT services by feeding the algorithms high-quality content, e.g. articles from DW’s Pashto news site.

While MT tools are in general very useful when producing web videos — you need a lot of subtitling in the era of mobile social videos on muted phones — there are some workflows that are hard to improve or speed up. For example: How do you tap into digital information carriers that are an individually branded, hard-coded part of a video created in software like Adobe Premiere? Well, for now we can’t, but we’re working on solutions. In the meantime, running news.bridge in a fixed tab and copy-pasting your translated script bits is an acceptable workaround.

Testing speech synthesis

Sometimes, computer voices are indispensable. For example, when you’re really curious about this blogpost, but can’t read it because you’re on a bike or in a (traditional) car.

In news production however, artificial readers/presenters are merely a gimmick. At least for the time being. That’s because once your scripts are finished, reading/recording them isn’t that time consuming and will provide much nicer results. Besides, synthetic voices aren’t yet available in all languages (once again, Pashto is paragon).

Nevertheless, news.bridge beta testers told us that the voices work fairly well, and even sound pretty natural in some cases. They can be trained, by the way, which is an interesting exercise we will try out at some point.

HLT services and news production in a nutshell

If we had to sum up the assessment of our beta testers in just a few sentences, they would read something like this:

HLT services and tools are useful (or very useful) in news productions these days: They get you decent results and save you a lot of time.

news.bridge is a promising, easy-to-use mash-up platform, especially when it comes to transcribing and translating and creating subtitles (another relevant use case is gisting).

news.bridge is not about complete automation. It’s about supporting journalists and editors. It’s about making things easier.