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SDL Tados 2021

ASR Tech in Hebrew and Arabic Languages Big Focus for IIA

Technology

The Israel Innovation Authority aims to improve ASR capabilities for Hebrew and Arabic languages, which have largely been left behind in voice recognition technologies.

As automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology improves through cutting edge innovations in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), many developments lack accessibility for a large portion of languages other than English. In particular, languages with unique morphology or complex syntax structures that differ from the languages available to current ASR technologies often face exclusion in new innovation and thus a delay in development using the technologies.

Responding to particular challenges for Hebrew and Arabic languages, the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) and the Israel National Digital Ministry have announced the establishment of the Association of Natural Language Processing (NLP) Technology Companies, an initiative that aims to improve the ASR capability of computerized systems for understanding the Hebrew and Arabic languages.

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“The public sector deals with unstructured data in Hebrew and Arabic on a daily basis. One of the major challenges in the digitization of public services is to enable operational efficiency and high productivity while ensuring that such services are free to the public,” said Asher Bitton, the ministry’s director-general.

To cultivate a detailed and complete understanding of the languages in the computerized systems, the association will invest about $2 million in R&D to analyze the syntactic, semantic, and morphological characteristics of the Hebrew and Arabic languages. It will achieve this by deploying collections of Hebrew and Arabic texts from diverse fields, including news, archives, films, books, articles, customer service, transcribed radio and television broadcasts, and professional literature.

“The Association that we established this week will allow Israeli industry to clearly define its needs and help close technological gaps by enabling the use of unstructured databases in Hebrew and Arabic and providing insights which can be harnessed when developing and promoting products and services provided by Israeli companies,” Israel Innovation Authority vice president Aviv Zeevi said in a statement.

The founding members of the association include Intel, Israel-based YNet News, Bank Hapoalim, and AudioCodes Ltd, as well as content creators like Ha’aretz Newspaper, The Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (Kan) Television, and The Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Archives.

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