Since 2012, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has installed the lecture translator to translate lectures for foreign students. Lectures at KIT are mainly presented in German, a problem for many students from other countries that was first addressed by the scientific team of Professor Alex Waibel several years ago. In 2005, the team made its first attempt with a system that simultaneously translated lectures into French, English, or Spanish.
Similar to subtitles in films, students can read the lecture in real time on a computer screen. The system is installed in four lecture halls at KIT. A mobile version is also available. “Our research and the service for our students is advancing constantly,” says Prof. Alex Waibel, who works on automatic speech translation for 30 years. As many foreign students know from their own experience, German is a very complex language, which makes translations difficult. Additional challenges result as a lecturer does often not complete sentences, has an unclear pronunciation, or does not pay attention to punctuation. Significant improvements were reached through neural networks, a part of artificial intelligence. Scientists also continue to work on achieving adequate translation of technical terms, and on the automatic adaption to new languages. Other universities have shown interest in the lecture translation system and first field tests are already taking place.
Today the following language directions are available (more languages are in progress):