While technology and machines can improve the quality of human life and make it easier, sometimes the most beneficial piece to a project is having that genuine human interaction. For entrepreneur Luis von Ahn, that interaction is vital to his company and what makes it unique.
Von Ahn started Duolingo, which aims to put language learners to work translating text on the Internet. According to the New York Times – which is considering possibly working with the company in the future – Duolingo offers basic lessons, followed by sentences to translate, one at a time, increasing in difficulty. Currently, online content providers wanting translations get free labor.
The site has been available by invitation only for the last five months, offering translations in English, Spanish, French and German. Users are also able to vote for the best translated content, for a type of quality control.
Alon Lavie, a Carnegie Mellon professor, has a machine translation company aimed at corporate clients. If businesses need large amounts of text, translated into multiple languages, a machine-based translator will be more useful, he said.
"Where I think Duolingo’s crowdsourcing makes a lot of sense is in scenarios where a consumer or enterprise has a small translation job that needs to be done quickly and cheaply, and the translation needs to come out at ‘human’ quality – similar to what a human translator or bilingual speaker would generate," Lavie said.
In certain situations, a human touch is exactly what a business – or customer – needs. By working with a third party answering service, consumers will not have to deal with issues that oftentimes arise with working with a machine. Nothing will be "lost in translation" as these professionals are trained to assist customers in a courteous and helpful manner, whether through phone, email or text messaging.