Tuesday November 13, 2018

Technology to bring Indian languages together


New Delhi: India is developing and rising in all spheres be it infrastructure, economy, education or women empowerment. The government is making sincere efforts to usher in changes in all domains. The diversity of our country needs no explanation though with this diversity comes diverse problems to deal with.

One of the biggest issues since the independence of India has been the problem of communication due to its multi-lingual societies as the number of Indian languages is simply astounding. With over 1.25 billion people and more than a thousand languages (and dialects), India is one of the most diverse nations in this aspect.

India now needs to build a bridge amongst its language-based communities; and in this age of technology, the medium is supposed to be tech friendly.

Ministry of Communication & Information Technology (MC&IT) has initiated ‘Technology Development for Indian Languages’ programme, developing information processing tools and technologies to enhance human interaction with technology without any language barrier.

The ministry is creating and accessing multilingual knowledge resources for Indian languages and integrating them to develop innovative user products and services. People of India are getting attracted to use regional languages on their respective phones and computers.

The ministry is creating and accessing multilingual knowledge resources for Indian languages and integrating them to develop innovative user products and services.

These language-friendly technologies are being developed to empower and facilitate people to have easy access to developing telecom and internet facilities.

The programme promotes language technology standardization through active participation in international and national standardization bodies such as ISO, UNICODE, World-Wide-Web consortium (W3C) and BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards), to ensure adequate representation of Indian languages in existing and future language technology standards.

Though, these technologies are slowly budding to facilitate multi-lingual bridges of communication, how they would help bring about the change in people’s perception of feeling linguistically disoriented, is the question.

These language-friendly technologies are being developed to empower and facilitate people to have easy access to developing telecom and internet facilities.

Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad pointed out the ways these technologies will bring change.

“A number of initiatives to develop tools, like language CDs and keyboard drivers for android based mobile devices, technologies like machine translation, optical character recognition, cross-lingual information, text to speech, automatic speech recognition etc. and standards like Unicode, web standards, speech standards, corpus standards and natural language processing standards, have been taken.”

With easy access to technology in regional Indian languages, people are getting more interested in learning new tools as now, they can understand and communicate in a simpler and better ways.

The inflow of information for agriculture, climate, welfare and health etc. is rising as people now get all their queries answered in the regional language they understand.

These efforts are expected to empower regional dialects and, in return, people would not struggle to understand languages alien to them. By building this bridge of technology and languages, the age old animosity due to linguistic extremes should subside, allowing people to converse in their preferred dialects without any hindrance.

This would help the flow of knowledge in regional dialects, bringing language independence within people, aiding them fill the linguistic gap in the country. These governmental efforts aiming to reduce social disparity due to the multilingual fabric of India is being seen in good light by people who were, till now, unable to take full advantage to technology due to the linguistic barrier.

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Alexa, Smart Home Speakers Get Popular in India

Echo Plus has come a long distance in terms of look and feel.

Google , US, Alexa
The logo of Amazon, online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

 Smart home speakers are steadily gaining ground in India and Amazon’s Echo range has been appreciated the most so far, followed by Google Home.

Led by Amazon Echo, with 59 per cent market share, the smart speakers category in India grew 43 per cent in the second quarter (July-September) this year, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) report.

Analysts see the nascent smartphone market in India growing beyond entertainment and Amazon, with its top-of-the-line voice-based Alexa platform, has brought the second iteration of its Echo smart home speaker to the country that is able to control connected devices around you and does not need third-party support.

The Indian smart home devices market which consists of connected lights, smart speakers, connected thermostats, smart TVs, home monitoring/security products and digital media adapters saw a healthy year-on-year growth of 107 per cent to hit 1.4 million shipments in the second quarter.

Google , US, Alexa
In this March 2, 2016, file photo, David Limp, Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices, pushes down on an Echo Dot in San Francisco. VOA

Let us see what the Rs 14,999 All-New Echo Plus (2nd Gen) with a smarter Alexa has to offer.

The top has four buttons — two to adjust volume, one to wake up Alexa and one mute button — along with seven ergonomically-placed microphones.

This time, the 780-gram device goes beyond reading daily news, playing music, announcing weather or ordering food.

The All-New Echo Plus comes with a built-in smart hub that helps you set up compatible Zigbee-enabled smart home devices directly, just using your voice.

Amazon Alexa. Flickr
Amazon Alexa. Flickr

Zigbee is a wireless technology developed to enable low-cost, low-power wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT (Internet of Things) networks.

Just ask Alexa to discover your devices and begin controlling compatible lights, plugs, locks, thermostats, sensors and in-wall switches.

For example, Echo Plus connected directly to Philips Hue light-bulbs.

Insert the bulb into a receptacle and tell Alexa to discover new devices. Within no time, she will throw up the name of the device (in this case, the light-bulb).

Start controlling the device, like “switch on the light Alexa”.

You can also control compatible lights and plugs from Syska, TP-Link and Oakter.

With seven microphones, beam-forming technology and noise cancellation, Echo Plus heard us from almost all directions.

Google , US, Alexa
Alexa, which comes with Echo speakers and other gadgets, starts recording after it hears its name or another “wake word” selected by users. Pixabay

Housing new speakers powered by Dolby and enhanced back volume, the bass felt stronger and the sound crisp and clear.

One feature that is worth mentioning is the equaliser (EQ) feature that allows users to personalise sounds by adjusting the bass, mid-range and treble.

Just ask Alexa to increase or decrease a specific band like “turn up the bass” or “decrease the treble” and she does it for you.

We could also made adjustments through the Alexa app.

The new Echo Plus also has a temperature sensor, making it possible for Alexa to tell the temperature in any room (it works with a compatible smart home thermostat).

With the device, call or message your friends and members in the family who also has an Echo device or the Alexa App.

Google , US, Alexa
The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

Simply ask “Alexa, how do I set up calling?” and get started.

What doesn’t work?

Alexa is getting smarter by the day and we will soon have more local functionalities in it. At the moment, the device gives the best smart speaker experience.

Also Read: Snapchat’s Camera May Help You Shop at Amazon

Conclusion: From a tall, metal cylinder look in the first generation, Echo Plus has come a long distance in terms of look and feel. The second-generation Echo Plus with a far more intelligent Alexa is a real upgrade if you have experienced the first generation Echo. (IANS)