On visit to Seattle, Iceland’s president has a message for Amazon and Microsoft – GeekWire

On visit to Seattle, Iceland's president has a message for Amazon and Microsoft – GeekWire

Iceland’s President Guðni Jóhannesson speaks at the Nordic Innovation Summit in Seattle on Could 19, 2022. (Livestream screenshot)

Don’t forget about about the significantly less prevalent languages when building electronic products and software.

That was the message to nearby tech giants Microsoft and Amazon from the president of Iceland on his check out to Seattle this 7 days.

“No language ought to be left behind,” President Guðni Jóhannesson explained to attendees at the Nordic Innovation Summit on Thursday. The function was held at the Nationwide Nordic Museum in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

Jóhannesson stated he doesn’t have a trouble with English — his spouse is Canadian-born Eliza Reid — but that it is significant to preserve languages that are spoken by more compact populations. The nation of Iceland is roughly 366,000 people today.

“We want to live in a culture in which no person is left guiding, and technological know-how ought to be a power for very good.”

Jóhannesson shared his problems all through a panel with Nikko Strom, a distinguished scientist with Amazon, and Arul Menezes, a distinguished engineer with Microsoft.

Amazon’s Alexa speaks 17 languages, Strom stated. Icelandic is not just one of them.

The enterprise is including languages, but it normally takes time and there are some privacy difficulties with language datasets, Strom said. Amazon is using new tactics to velocity up the rate. Rather of likely just one language at a time, it is now making use of device finding out and AI “where one language can study from a further language,” he reported.

“We want anyone to be capable to use Alexa,” Strom said. “That’s our intention.”

Jóhannesson claimed his nation has made massive databases capturing the Icelandic language that it is content to share with technological innovation providers for inclusion with hardware and application.

The Microsoft Translator app is conversant in 111 languages, Menezes reported. That does include things like Icelandic, but not Sámi, which encompasses numerous languages spoken in Northern Europe.


Menezes agreed with the relevance of which includes a diversity of languages in technological innovation items. He observed that Microsoft has its AI for Cultural Heritage initiative, which is doing the job to maintain endangered languages.

“Language is the basis for culture and modern society,” he reported.

Jóhannesson also lifted the difficulty of tech obtain for people today with disabilities. Voice activated products can be daily life altering for a person with physical limitations. Speech-to-textual content instruments aid men and women for who are audio impaired, when audio players aid the blind.

“We want to reside in a society in which nobody is left powering,” Jóhannesson mentioned, “and know-how should be a force for great.”

During a keynote communicate previous the panel, the president illustrated tech’s language limitations by conversing with Siri, Apple’s virtual own assistant.

“Hey Siri, do you talk Icelandic?” he questioned. Her response: “Hmm. I really do not have an solution for that. Is there one thing else I can support with?”

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