Xu Yifan of China hits a return with Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada against Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova of Czech Republic during their Women’s Doubles Finals match in the 2018 China Open on Oct. 7, 2018. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Chinese internet search engine Sogou provided its AI-powered language translation technology at last week’s China Open tennis tournament. Sogou’s platform provided fans and media real-time bilingual translations between Chinese and English during interviews and press conferences.
The China Open was held Sept. 29 through Oct. 7 in Beijing, and featured tennis stars such as Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep. The use of Sogou’s system marked the first time that AI-powered automatic translation played a key role in an international sports event, according to a Sogou press release.
“We’re excited and honored to support the China Open with our AI translation technology,” said Xiaochuan Wang, CEO of Sogou, in the press release. “By enabling bilingual translation in real-time, instead of relying on consecutive translation or media coverage, reporters and tennis fans got first-hand information and enjoyed a better experience at this major international sports tournament.”
Sogou is the second most popular used search engine on mobile devices in China, and the fourth largest internet company by monthly active users in the country. Wang himself recently stated that Sogou could work with the Chinese government to bring Google back into the Chinese market, if Google agrees to work alongside Sagou, rather than as a competitor. Like Google, Sogou has been at the forefront of developing artificial intelligence.
“Sogou has made significant progress in exploring and applying natural language processing and AI to machine translation,” Wang added in the press release. “Our promising results in this field were further demonstrated this year with the launch of several AI-powered translation devices, including the Sogou Translator Pro, the Sogou Smart Travel Translator and the Sogou Smart Recording Translator, which aim to connect people from different countries and create a world free of multi-language communication barriers.”
Chinese tech giant Tencent is a major investor in Sogou, which operates as a publicly traded company in China. Back in 2016, Major League Baseball required all 30 MLB teams to employ full-time Spanish translators given the league’s heavy influx of players from Latin America. Perhaps a next step for Sogou will be to see if its AI-powered language interpretation technology could be used to replace traditional human interpreters.