Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, stated that the company changed its name to Meta to represent a transition towards digital life taking place in virtual spaces.
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Even though Hokkien, a language from Taiwan, does not have a standard written form, Meta announced on Wednesday that it has developed an AI system that can translate the language into English.
The Universal Speech Translator project, operated by the Silicon Valley tech giant that owns Facebook and Instagram, promoted its work as a means of enabling users from all over the globe to interact irrespective of the languages they speak.
When Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that the company was focusing on a change to online life taking place in virtual spaces, a notion known as the metaverse.
Meta said in a blog post, "Spoken communications can help break down barriers and bring people together wherever they are located—even in the metaverse."
According to Meta, the in-progress Hokkien translation system is the first "speech-to-speech translation system developed for an unwritten language."
A person who speaks Hokkien can communicate with someone who knows English, but only using one complete sentence at a time, as said by Meta, because of the translation software that the tech company stated will be provided for use by others.
Meta added, "It's a step toward a future where simultaneous translation between languages is possible."
"The techniques we pioneered with Hokkien can be extended to many other unwritten languages and eventually will work in real time."
Hokkien is commonly spoken among the Chinese diaspora. According to the French National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations, it is spoken by three-quarters of the people in Taiwan and is used by 16 million people throughout Asia.
However, because there is no established written form for the language, Meta says that it is difficult to instruct AI models how to interpret the language.
Meta also said that out of the 7,000 languages that are currently spoken worldwide, more than 40% don't have a standard or well-known written form.
"In the future, all languages, whether written or unwritten, may no longer be an obstacle to mutual understanding," Meta stated.