With the recent launch of the Spanish language integration in Google Home, Google will be even more effective against Amazon's Amazon devices. The expansion of Spanish language functionality will expand Google's share of the US digital assistant market, and beyond that in Mexico and Spain. Alexa currently supports only three languages, including English, German and Japanese, while Google Home will offer over 30 languages by 2019. When Alexa falls behind, many wonder why it took so long to make digital assistants multilingual.
Alexa may be lost in translation
"No hay pedo" is the Mexican slang that means "there is no problem", but it translates into English as "there is no fart." Does not work, right? Language and culture are filled with so many nuances specific to this region and dialect. Even English has many variations of phrases and words, depending on where you come from. A digital assistant who knows and speaks a language is different than just translating.
"How to address a friend to a friend When is the proper time for dinner? What jokes are appropriate? What jokes are funny?" Said Kelly Davis, director of machine learning at Mozilla in an email Interview for this article. "The list is endless, and not just language-specific, but culture-specific, and jokes that work in Spain can be insulting in Mexico."
Taking these differences into account requires a lot of time and effort. Businesses need to do research to understand these small nuances and turn them into code. This means that even the largest companies in the world, such as Amazon, need several years to invest in locating their assistants. With Cleo, an Alexa-sponsored language tool that learns from its users, Amazon has even taken steps to learn Crowdsource.
"You'll need thousands of hours of this data from tens of thousands of people, and that needs to be done for anyone language and for any accent of the language you want to recognize, it's tedious work, and there are no silver bullets," said Davis.
Missing Opportunities in the Meantime
Although we are finally seeing technical giants like Google broaden their offerings to people who speak a greater variety of languages, companies that create digital assistants, the majority languages and cash markets will always give priority , So while Amazon covers the markets it currently holds most profitably, it still leaves out many Spanish-speaking countries around the world and a large part of the United States, which consists of Spanish-speaking Americans.
An example of one of Alexa's main problems this summer is the inability to answer questions about the World Cup in one of the most widely used languages among football fans. In the US alone, there are more than 20 Spanish-language channels and networks, meaning that Amazon has private DVR integrations and frequent requests such as "Alexa, a qua hora es partido de la Copa Mundial?" (Alexa, at what time) misses the World Cup?). These simple integrations will result in a large number of units sold that are likely to go to Google Home until Alexa devices support more languages.
But the potential impact of adding multi-language support to digital assistants goes well beyond scheduling meetings and changing the channel and controlling a smart home. Wizards with the ability to speak more languages provide opportunities to make the world more accessible to their users in a variety of ways.
"Thinking about how speech recognition could be used by minority language speakers to allow more people access to technology and the Internet services that the Internet can provide, even if they have never learned to read?" Said Davis. "Regular market forces will not help to reach these people."
The world of digital assistants is expanding. These tremendous advances in technology are occurring in more homes than ever before, and given the added pressure of Google Home's language offerings, we can only hope that Amazon will catch up with saying "Hola Alexa" soon ] Cassie Tolhurst is an author who contributes to Geek Girl and Stanford College Jigsaw.