Google Computers Try to Tackle Poetry Analysis

Researchers say translating verse among the hardest challenges
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2011 6:09 AM CST
Google researchers call poetry translation one of the hardest possible tasks for a computer.   (shutterstock)

(Newser) – "If music be the food of love, compute on." Yes, Google, has a new target in its sights—poetry. Google programmers are working on computers that can understand and translate poetry, NPR reports. "It's what we call AI complete," said a research scientist at Google. "Which means it's as difficult as anything we can attempt in artificial intelligence." Poetry translations are exponentially more difficult than translations of regular texts because the translation needs to preserve both meaning and "feeling"—which stems in part from meter, rhyme, and length.

Though Google's computers can tackle some of those—in the case of haikus, for instance, they can be programmed to generate lines of five, seven, and five syllables—rhyme proves much tougher. The best Google can do is churn through a long list of optionals in a pick-and-choose process. That means the translations take a while, and NPR notes that no beta is public. "But there's quite a big aspect of [poetry translation] that machines can do pretty well," said the Google researcher. "It's not such a human endeavor as people might think."

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