Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Exactly Does Artificial Intelligence Know How to Translate?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been at the forefront of technology in recent years, with massive companies like Facebook and Google investing heavily in its development. Both those companies have been utilizing artificial intelligence in improving the quality of their translations.

Currently, Google and Facebook can offer a rough, but far from flawless, version of original text in several other languages. I was curious to understand how artificial intelligence manages to translate anything at all, as imperfect as it is at the task currently and for the foreseeable future.

It turns out there’s been multiple schools of thought when it comes to artificial intelligence. One approach works on the basis of providing symbolic logic-based rules for the AI to operate under. One simple illustrative example of a logic-based rule would be: “if A, then B.” When computers weren’t as powerful as they are now, this approach was believed to be the best way to replicate human thinking. It provided some limited results, but with the processing power at our disposal in the past 10-15 years, an AI approach called deep learning is getting all the attention.

Deep learning uses artificial neural networks, which essentially emulate how the human brain operates. A network of artificial neurons is provided massive quantities of data, and from that data, connections and a form of understand can arise. They key difference between symbolic AI and neural networks is that while the former type of AI is given instructions, the latter can understand things without human instructions. The more data provided and the more layers in the network, the more complex the understanding can be. And now we have computers with the processing power to test this hypothesis out.

In 2012, Google X, a secretive research and development company, worked on a project that exposed a massive neural network to millions of YouTube video thumbnails, and without being given concepts like cat or human faces, it identified both from a list of 20,000 items it was given.

Similar techniques to this kind of image recognition is how AI is being used to translate. As I’ve talked about recently, translation is an art one must use finesse with. We learn how language works and how concepts and phrases translate by the wealth of our experience, by our understanding of the nuance of context. This is what is missing in current AI translation. Having the correct word-for-word translation will provide something you can basically understand, but nothing close to what a human is capable of doing. Our brains can do so much, but AI is catching up the more powerful computers get and the more data they can process.

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Culture of Creativity

“Creativity and ideas can build countries and institutions. The future belongs to those who generate ideas.” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

I wonder, wouldn’t a creative person prefer a short life spent as he pleases than a long life spent under oppression and humiliation? Is this not the reason why creative people have no fear of death?

In my opinion, what drives a person to suicide is despair. Because with determination and hope, it is hard to tire of patience or to reach that stage of desolation that leads to suicide.
Best of all, creativity has no age. It is not always true that older are the only ones who have learned from life. All experiences, knowledge, reading, culture, and meditation are great teachers, and anyone can become an outstanding student in the school of life.

There is no excuse for failure. Nothing can suppress hope and creativity even if our surrounding environment is not perfect, and even if we have suffered so much. We can always recreate our environment through which we can love, read, dream, make art, learn, hope and create.

It is time to stop the blame game. You are the only one who can bury your own creativity if you do not try hard or make an effort, and if you allow the opinions of others to kill your passion or pull out the roots of hope, imagination, and creativity, and you sow despair in their place.
There are always individuals and organizations who support creativity. Tabeer Creative Lab is an agency in the UAE that supports, nurtures and develops all forms of creativity, including graphic art and literary creativity, and thus contributes to acculturation among people.

Let us learn to love life and create our own world where all stereotypical noise is shunned. A world where creativity and sophistication embrace culture and infuse our world with light and beauty.

Leen Barakat

• Opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Tabeer.

ِArtworl: Fadwa Al Qasem

It’s Not A Coincidence!

One day in 2007, I read Memories in Translation by Canadian author Denys Johnson Davies.

I enjoyed his story with the Arabic language and translations thereof. Naguib Mahfouz and Edward Said considered him the pioneer of Arabic to English translation. The author published about 30 volumes that included Arabic creative fiction and narratives. He also played a role in introducing the classics of Arabic literature to the academic and scientific circles in the West. In addition to publishing over forty children’s books in English inspired by the masterpieces of Arabic literature, providing an example of values such as originality, tolerance, and cultural coexistence.

In any case, I wrote an article about the author’s book and published it in the supplement of Al-Bayan newspaper in the UAE, and I posted the article to my own website.

A few days later I noticed a violent campaign – led by an Arab academy, or so it called itself – against Mahfouz, Denys and against me. The naive one, of course, who has no idea of what lies behind this work.

In short [they claim that] Davies is a Zionist agent and he prepared Mahfouz for the Nobel Prize, etc., ad infinitum. The same old-fashioned, improvised non-sense we have all known and experienced since the 1960s: Every Nobel laureate is suspicious.

I was not surprised when I read an article by As’ad AbuKhalil in the steadfast paper, Al-Akhbar, about the fans of the Zionist Bob Dylan who won a Nobel!

It’s the very same media terrorism!

Izzat Omar

Creative Community

The traditional idea of networking no longer resonates with modern thinking and practices. It’s outdated because it focuses on personal and individual needs and interests while (almost totally) disregarding those of others.

Typically, people arrive at a networking event, give out and collect as many business cards as is humanly possible within the shortest time possible, and leave with a huge sigh of relief that it’s over and done with. Five minutes later, no one remembers anyone, yet emails are sent out to every single email address on those cards.

The problem is people, individuals, don’t operate that way in real life – and why is business life something separate to real life? In life, you connect with others with whom you have shared values and interests. You get to know them, understand them, and they you. You build a solid foundation that can carry lifelong friendships, business-ships, partnerships, collaborations. Within a community, you have the opportunity to know and understand each other. There could also be – dare we say it – empathy and compassion in the way you work with others. A mutual and shared respect for people’s time, work, and talents.

This is more than a referral system, and much more than a networking system. This is a community in the true sense of the word. Shared values, interests, attitudes and similar aspirations or goals, plus a strong belief that competition and stepping on others is not the way to move forward. Rather, collaborations, cooperation, supporting each other to move ahead, and creating new opportunities by putting ideas and knowledge together to forge new pathways. As individuals and as organizations. None of us are capable of providing everything for everyone, not only is that impossible but – as an organization – it also means you lose your brand’s focus and identity, and you lose clients and business.

With this in mind, we’ve decided at Tabeer to launch Tabeer Creative Lab Community. With a strong emphasis on the community. This community is for final-year students, new grads and young entrepreneurs. It may change, expand, evolve to include others, too.

We want to bring passion back into our working days and business. Not just flaunt the word. It’s not about loving every second of the work you do – even the best and most glamorous jobs and companies have their ups and downs. It’s about bringing the values of your life, the values of life, into the business world. Doing your best at all times, with integrity, transparency, honesty, humanity.

Fadwa Al Qasem

The Creativity Melting Pot

Creativity is a funny thing. We owe the heights (and sometimes the lows) of human civilization to it. We see its effects in books we read, films we watch, advertisements we try to ignore, in buildings we live in, cars we drive and on and on.

And yet, where creativity comes from doesn’t have a clear universal answer. Some people seem to have a knack for it while others get demoralized the moment they’re expected to do something out of the norm. But what stimulates creativity? Where does the spark come from?

There’s plenty of answers out there for those questions, and many a self-help book, seminar and video has been peddled around assuring its readers the solution is at hand. For those of you who wish they would just get to the point and not charge exorbitant prices for their troubles, here are five useful (and free!) steps you can follow to find your creativity.

1. Explore yourself.

This is both simple and challenging, but introspection is the most necessary step for a creative person. Each of us is different. Beyond the drudgery of life, we all get pleasure from a whole multitude of things. It’s funny how rarely we actually pause to ask ourselves what do we enjoy? What has enjoyed us in the past? What did we like about them? Ask yourself and you may be surprised at the answers.

2. Seek the different.

If you don’t know many things that excite you, that give you pleasure merely by the act of doing them, seek them out. If you don’t really read, read more. If you only watch action films, watch dramas. If you’ve never painted or played a musical instrument in your life, why not try both? You’ll never know what might spark you. Sometimes trying one thing ends up leading you down the path of something seemingly irrelevant. You won’t know unless you try.

3. Schedule time for creativity.

The key for steps 1 and 2 is to give yourself time to do them the same way you give yourself time to exercise, go shopping or watch TV. Even dedicating a small slice of time a day or during weekends can pay off.

4. Act first, doubt later.

When we try new things we’re not very good at, or that perhaps seem pointless in our day to day lives, it’s typical of us to give up. Doubts are normal, but surrendering to them all the time shouldn’t be. Parking those doubts away even temporarily can sometimes have the effect of making them disappear altogether.

5. Share and communicate.

Now that you’ve expanded your inner horizons, extending them outwards can have positive effects. In our global digital age, you’ll always find others who share your interests and ideas. You can bounce thoughts, concepts, arguments…etc. off of them and vice versa. You might discover what you might be able to do better or what you can focus your attentions on. Doing so will only enhance your own creativity and that of others!

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A New Translation Frontier is Coming

Lingmo’s Translate One2One is available for $179 USD this summer.

The United Nations has 193 member states and six official languages. When a speaker delivers a speech to the UN in one of those six languages, a team of a dozen interpreters translate the speech instantaneously. It’s exhausting work. So exhausting that the interpreters apparently take 20 minute shifts before they switch out to give themselves a break.
This doesn’t factor in the countless journalists and media people who must translate the speech into the language of their respective countries’ publications and news organizations. Now imagine if all this work could be done by the headsets those diplomats, ambassadors and journalists may be using to receive the interpreters’ translations. Theoretically, it would streamline and speed up the process – and it would put all those interpreters out of work.
Now the theoretical is closer and closer to becoming a reality.
Companies such as Australia’s Lingmo and the US’s Waverly Labs have created affordable earpieces that promise simultaneous translation in multiple languages right in the recipient’s ear. Lingmo’s Translate One2One is available for $179 USD this summer. It utilizes IBM’s famous Watson supercomputer technology and translates across English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German and Chinese (no Arabic yet unfortunately). It does it in three to five seconds and claims to handle much of the contextual, cultural, dialect and slang elements of a language that make Google Translate practically useless for anything beyond basic word for word translation. Amazing, isn’t it?
Around the same time, Waverly Labs, a company specializing in wearable technology and speech translation, has come out with the Pilot Translating Earpiece. It is currently available for pre-order at $249 USD and won’t start shipping until fall 2017. The Pilot comes with free access to English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese translation, but you’ll have to pay extra for Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, German, Hindi and various other languages. One of the catches with the Pilot is you have to communicate with someone else who is also using a set.
The possibilities – and repercussions – are seemingly endless with this technology, which is still in the nascent stages. Who knows what future generations will be capable of? Its uses can obviously extend beyond UN speeches to business meetings, government negotiations, dating websites….and the list goes on and on. Instantaneous and accurate written translation doesn’t seem to be very far away at this point.
And while we’re not there yet, translators of the world could find themselves being replaced by AI much in the same way as factory workers have already lost theirs to automation and how taxi and truck drivers’ livelihoods are in peril with the emergence of self-driving vehicles. Will people even bother learning other languages when they have technology doing it for them? The frontier has arrived, and change is coming.

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Virtual Reality: An Untapped Content Creation Market

Virtual reality is a term popping up with increased frequency in the past few years, but what is it exactly? And what does it mean for content creation?

What is Virtual Reality?

It is simply a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

The History of Virtual Reality:

Not exactly a recent innovation, virtual reality (VR) has been around in some form for decades. One early example would the creation of American VR pioneer Morton Heilig (1926-1997), who in the 1960s prototyped the Sensorama, a working (but commercial failure) device that screened 3-D images designed to trigger all the senses, from tilting the viewer’s body to accompanying sounds and aromas. Many people unfamiliar with VR imagine crudely drawn computer-generated worlds, limited by technology at the time. But this is all changing.

Virtual Reality Now:

Built on years of research and experimentation with VR headsets, full-body suits as well entire VR rooms, a headset called the Oculus Rift emerged in 2010, offering users an immersive and responsive 90 degree field of vision. All the major tech players have become involved in the past few years. Facebook purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014, while Google introduced Google Cardboard, a cheap fold-out that transforms your cell phone into a virtual reality viewing screen, also in 2014. 10 million units of the simple viewer have been shipped to date.

The Future of Virtual Reality:

But this is just the start, with similar headsets popping up left and right throughout the market. VR’s uses are seemingly endless. Videogames can offer an enhanced experience to its customers in the comfort of their own home with specially designed consoles equipped with headsets. One example would be the HTC Vive, which retails at 799 USD, offering consumers motion tracking handheld controllers and sensors in addition to a headset that can transform a living room into a variety of different interactive scenarios.

If people want to engage in a more social form of this, VR cafes could soon spring up around the world, perhaps being absorbed by internet cafes or becoming a special niche of their own. Some prognosticate virtual reality could also be something that wildly changes the landscape of cinema, giving viewers an interactive experience transcending anything 3D-screens or IMAX can provide.

And just to have some more tangible numbers for this market, it is estimated to reach $41.01 billion worldwide by 2023, up from $147.5 million in 2015. Clearly, the content creation possibilities with VR are limitless. Developers and artists can create entire worlds for their consumers with this technology, which is no longer hampered by the constraints of the past. The major players have already claimed their stakes, but as with any new business, there’s always a niche to be found or created!

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What Would You Say To Your Younger Self?

About this series of blogs:

We’ve done a series of Instiga-Views (instigation + interview) offering insight from people with experience to instigate positive action and reaction from younger generations toward building their own paths. We didn’t have any questions, rather we asked our interviewees to speak to their younger selves, to give us their honest, straight to the heart thoughts on two of the following seven “Instigators”: Breaking the Rules, Courage, Adding Value, Career Catastrophes, Fear, Censorship, and Play.

Here’s what Noura AlNoman had to say about Censorship and Play:


As responsible parents we raise our children to understand wrong from right. As they grow older we give them more space to discover things for themselves. Upon adulthood, we trust them to make the right judgments, while being there to provide counsel and wisdom when needed. Sadly, in our part of the world, a citizen is a child forever. He is neither given a good education, nor raised to be a responsible adult. Never trusted to make the right decisions, not in his choice of education, marriage or anything to do with self-determination. The state goes as far as to decide what he cannot read or see, guaranteeing a lifetime of guardianship. I once worked as a censor, and ironically, I now look down upon a society which has no respect for its citizens to make decisions in their own private lives.


Often, when I tell people I still play for fun, brows are raised, smirks are barely concealed, and some actually ask: “Aren’t you a little old for games?” No, you’re never too old for games. I love the fact that I can play anything I want and not feel ridiculous. What’s life without the creativity, the thrill of competition, and the freedom to have fun like a child? I have never stopped playing games, and it has kept my mind sharp. Not only is it a practice with many benefits, but it also keeps me connected with my children throughout the years of their development. Nothing beats the bonding we have when we play monopoly, or complete a 2000-piece puzzle. Recently, we’ve also started painting miniature armies together and competing in mock battles. I will keep playing games till my dying day.

Noura Al Noman

With a Bachelor in English Literature (1986) and a Masters in Translation Studies (2004), Noura Al Noman had studied language for years; but never expected to become a writer, let alone an author of books for Arab children. At the age of 45, she published her first two picture books for toddlers in 2010. “Cotton the Kitten” and “Kiwi the Hedgehog” were published by Kalimat in Arabic, and aimed to contrast how children deal with pets and wild animals. Noting the huge deficit in books for young Arabs (aged 15+), she wrote her first novel, “Ajwan”, one of a handful of science fiction novels in the Arab world, published by Nahdet Misr (Egypt). Noura believes that Arab youth are hungry for Arabic fiction. Ajwan won the Etisalat Children Literature Award, as Best Young Adult Novel, 2013. Although she has a full English translation of “Ajwan”, Noura has delayed publishing it to give a chance for the Arabic version to take a foothold. Book two, “Mandan” was launched at the Cairo Book Fair, January 2014, and she is working on the third book in the series.

Noura Al Noman is member of the Board of Trustees of UAEBBY.