Making the internet Icelandic
There is an ongoing project in Iceland, called Samrómur, which calls on members of the public to donate as much or as little time as they like, reading sentences into a huge database. The database will be freely available to tech companies around the world, in the hopes that Icelandic will be offered as standard, as voice recognition and speech to text technologies continue to develop apace.
Part of this ongoing campaign is a competition pitting workplaces against one another. The competition, called Reddum málinu, ends with a prize ceremony tomorrow (16th November) and well over a million sentences have been read into the database already.
The prize for the winning workplace is bigger than mere money: it is praise, recognition, and the satisfaction of helping Icelandic thrive in a digital world!
Jón Guðnason, Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at Reykjavik University says: “It’s going really well. Icelandic is just a normal language. There is nothing unusual about Icelandic. We really enjoy saying that it’s unique, special, and suchlike—and it is, of course. It certainly is to us. But from a technical and linguistic point-of-view, it is just like any other language, which has its own characteristics. And most of these characteristics, if not all, exist in other languages.”
It is perhaps even more important for people who learnt Icelandic as a second language to take part, because comprehension of a wide variety of accents in spoken Icelandic will make the technology more robust and easier to use for everybody; native speakers included.
“It is really important to collect a lot of data, and for speech recognition we need to collect data from lots of people and get all sorts of Icelandic into the database. We then use it to build the speech recognitions...there will be more than one sort of speech recognition," Jón Guðnason adds.
There is still time to take part in the project until midnight tonight, here.