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Archive for March, 2009

There are some important researchers on the field of Human Language Technologies (HLT). One of those researchers is Martin Kay. As he says, his main interests are translation (by people and machines), and computational linguistic algorithms, specially in the fields of morphology and syntax. He is well known for his work in computational linguistics; what’s more, he started to work in one of the earliest centres of Computational Linguistics research: the Cambridge Language Research Unit. He is nowadays Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University, and the developments he has made in the field of  Human Language Technologies in subjects such as chart parsing and functional unification grammar have to be mentioned, as well as the fact that he has been regarded as a leading authority on machine translation.

Another important researcher is Yorick Wilks, a British Computer Scientist who is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield. There he directs the Institute for Language, Speech and Hearing. He wrote an algorithmic method “for assigning the “most coherent” interpretation to a sentence in terms of having the maximum number of internal preferences of its parts (normally verbs or adjectives) satisfied”. In the 1090s he got interested in modeling human-computer dialogue, and in this time he is the Director of the EU funded Companions Project on creating long-term computer companions for people.

Hans Uskoreit is also a researcher that has to be mentioned. He is Professor of Computational Linguistics at Saarland University and head of the DFKI Language Technology Lab, as he serves as Scientific Director at that German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. During his career he has affiliated with several centers and he is member of lots of associations, as The European Academy of  Science or the International Committee of Computational Linguistics.

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The Human Language Technologies (HLT), also known as Language Technologies or Natural Language Processing (NLP), are closely connected to computer science and linguistics.  HLT enables people to interact with machines with more ease.  We find an example of how HLT can help people:  “This can benefit a wide range of people – from illiterate farmers in remote villages who want to obtain relevant medical information over a cellphone, to scientists in state-of-the-art laboratories who want to focus on problem-solving with computers.”

As Hans Uszkoreit wrote in one of his publications, there is a problem in the interaction between human and machine, for there is a communication problem. Machines’ language and human language is not the same since machine’s domain of language is very restricted. But with NLP, the data used by computers becomes readable for human; it designs mechanisms of communication which work with programs that simulate the communication.

But, although there have been many advantages in this field, we still can find  some difficulties when we communicate with a computer. When we enter a sentence, it is likely that some words have more than one meaning; and if we don’t pay attention to the structure of the sentence, it can become ambiguous for the computer and it may not understand what we intended to say. But, as the researcher previously mentioned said, “the whole world of multimedia information can only be structured, indexed and navigated through language”, so it is just a question of years and development that HLT works without any problem.

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