I gave the tool a brief run-through today and it is definitely rough around the edges. To get the best results you really need to put some thought into the search queries you enter — the more translatable the query, the better the odds of success. But Google is just getting started. After each search, Google solicits user input to improve the cross language engine. It will be very interesting to see if users do indeed provide input and what role this information plays in improving results.
On Friday, Jessica Vascallero of The Wall Street Journal provided some insights into what Google’s competition is doing in light of this development:
Rival Yahoo Inc. is taking a more human-intensive approach based on its Yahoo Answers service, which is available in nearly a dozen languages, including Chinese, French and Portuguese and soon, Vietnamese and Thai. The service allows users to ask other Yahoo Answers users any question and have it answered by a native speaker. Yahoo then indexes the responses into its Web search results for others to find in the future. “Outside the U.S., there is information that is still in people’s heads that doesn’t appear on the Web,” says Tim Mayer, vice president of product management for Yahoo Search. “This is a very large opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft Corp. is working on improving its natural-language processing software that translates documents by extracting implied meanings behind a string of phrases or words as opposed to translating each word literally. The company says it is considering ways to implement technology into its Live search service, which it currently offers in 46 markets from Germany to Hong Kong.