SlatorCon 2018 San Francisco

SlatorCon 2018 San Francisco

September 13, 2018

It was a definitely a good day, and amazingly, a sell-out event.

There has been a good deal of M&A, and a lot of new entries emerging in the language industry. We’re also beginning to see some results of the traction of NMT in the market. With both business and technology topics on the agenda for SlatorCon San Francisco, I was really looking forward to it.  

The event held a lot of information on Interpreting, with a nice cross section of different types of organizations. As a former interpreter, the military-grade hardware I used 30 years ago required a great deal of specialized training, and was nothing like what is now available in the commercial market. Today organizations can simply access a SAAS platform in their browser and be connected with thousands of remote interpreters in seconds. The barriers to entry crushed by 3 decades of technological and business evolution.

New and established technology players continue to innovate, and make the technology more accessible to more people and situations. This was clearly shown in the sessions on the efforts of both established players and new upstarts in this growing market segment.

When Translation Memory technology adoption really took off, it had a transformative effect on the language industry. This was shortly followed by the PDF, and then the broader availability of commercialized Machine Translation systems. The first two significant advances shared a low barrier to deploy and use, with significant benefits that could be felt immediately.

MT was not so simple, nor obvious. Integrations were complex, requiring new skills, and could only be accomplished by a few organizations. Many organizations have collectively spent millions of hours to break down the barriers of use. Companies like Google and Microsoft have exposed simple business interfaces for everyone to gain access to this valuable resource. Even still, it’s use is not ubiquitous, the most complex systems still cannot deliver the nuance of human language.

‘Neural’ has quickly become a huge buzz in the language industry, based on the increases MT results we have already seen. Throughout the day we heard many diverse opinions on MT, from “it doesn’t help”, to “it has revolutionized how…” any many in-between. Personally, I have experienced how NMT can raise quality and reduce time to market, and more importantly significantly reduce operating costs. But overall, the technology continues to be merely situationally appropriate.

We have not yet seen the true potential of these recent AI advances on the language industry, nor perhaps even dreamt of them, yet.

I felt a lot of anticipation for Adolfo Hernandez’s presentation, details on SDL’s recent acquisition of Donnelley Language Solutions (which included the 5th TMS in their portfolio) were made clearer, as well as their plans for the journey ahead of them. I am looking forward to hearing more from them at SDL Connect in November.

Other technology players shared some of their own stories about funding, growth, and their impressions of the future of the industry. Florian Faes from Slator did a great job bringing a lot of his own analysis to the table and hosting some of the sessions. With Andrew Smart, also from Slator, guiding us through the afternoon sessions to the end of a sunny and informative day in San Francisco.

The rate at which the industry is evolving has never been faster and the opportunities may in fact be growing nearly exponentially. It all adds up to an opportune moment for transformative change.

My thanks to the Slator team for hosting such a good event last Thursday. I know I will keep reading.

– Ben (