John Tinsley is no stranger to language technology. An entrepreneur, technologist, and machine translation expert, he co-founded Iconic Translation Machines, later selling the language software business to RWS in 2020. After a few years of exploring other pursuits, he is back in the language technology game with the announcement that he’s joining Translated as the company’s vice president of AI solutions. John took the time to answer a few questions about the big move.
Congratulations on the new position! Could you tell us why this position seemed like the right next step for you at this stage of your career?
Thank you! Fortunately, I wasn’t in a rush to make any decisions. I have interests outside of localization that I’ve been exploring — advising startups and small businesses on growth, fundraising, and more. However, I’ve had a feeling that there was some unfinished business for me in the language industry and I couldn’t think of many better places than Translated to address it!
AI is certainly the talk of the industry at the moment. Could you tell us a bit about where you see these emerging technologies fitting into language work and particularly at Translated?
Language has always been one of the hardest challenges for AI, so researchers and developers have always been keen to test their mettle here.
Translation is an obvious fit when it comes to AI, but it begs the question of if/when generative language models might consistently outperform dedicated translation models. It’s an active topic that most practitioners in the industry are looking at closely, including at Translated.
Beyond translation, there are many other areas where AI is already playing a part, and where new and improving technologies have a chance to play a huge role in the future. Specific applications will depend on the exact use case, but will include the enhancement of content to provide more/new information (think summarisation, suggestions, etc.) in a variety of different formats (think speech synthesis, image generation, and more).
What are both your short- and long-term goals in the new role?
I’ve known the team here for quite some time so it shouldn’t take me too long to get up to speed on the ins and outs of the business. After that, it’s a question of getting our technology out there. Despite the fact that Translated was named by IDC as a leader in the machine translation marketscape, I feel like there is still an element of “best-kept secret” about ModernMT. I want to shout about it from the rooftops and get it into as many businesses as possible because I know how powerful it is and the upside it brings.
And it’s not just MT. I’ve been amazed by some of the other AI technology I’ve seen here already. Our Matedub product and the Voice for Purpose project are just two examples of this, using cutting-edge AI-powered speech synthesis to create amazing-sounding digital voices. So I want to help build more solutions for more complex problems, beyond just text and translation.
Slightly tangential to the role, I also want to improve my Italian to make life outside the office in Rome a little bit easier.
What advice do you have for companies seeking to prepare and future-proof themselves?
What are you waiting for?!