Facebook has announced a new advance in its automatic translation tools which will improve communications between users around the world.
The new advance is based on Facebook's 'M2M-100' multilingual machine translation (MMT) model, which is able to translate between any pair of 100 languages without relying on English data.
As explained by Facebook:
"When translating, say, Chinese to French, most English-centric multilingual models train on Chinese to English and English to French, because English training data is the most widely available. Our model directly trains on Chinese to French data to better preserve meaning. It outperforms English-centric systems by 10 points on the widely used BLEU metric for evaluating machine translations."
By cutting out the initial step of first translating into English, Facebook's new system is better able to maintain the original meaning of the text, which will help to maximize communication between Facebook users.
Facebook's translation tools could play a key role in maximizing business opportunities, by facilitating cross-border commerce into regions where language barriers exist. Businesses might, for example, want to branch into the growing Indian market, but they're currently unable to because they can't effectively communicate. Facebook's translation advances could play a key role in this respect, and help to open up new opportunities - especially given the platform's increasing focus on eCommerce and on-platform exchange.
That could be further assisted by the development of Facebook's own currency, which would separate it from local banks. That project is still a way off, but Facebook is looking towards a future where any business, anywhere, would be able to sell to anybody, across the world, on Facebook's marketplace.
As such, these new advances are significant - and what's more, Facebook is open-sourcing its work on the project to facilitate improved translation tools more broadly.
Combine this with Facebook's cross-border insights, and it's clear where the platform is headed. If Facebook can connect the world, and provide universal communications access, that could lead to significant new opportunities.