International (MNN) — Meta, the parent company of social media giants Facebook and Instagram, uses the Bible to train its artificial intelligence (A.I.) speech tool. The project includes recordings of Bible stories, evangelistic messages, Scripture, and songs in more than 6,255 languages and dialects.
In a sense, the Bible is helping A.I. learn other languages. Does A.I. ever help Bible translators?
“Wycliffe Bible Translators [USA] has been using machine-assisted drafting for a couple of decades. It continues to change and modify as time goes on,” Wycliffe USA‘s V.P. of Global Partnerships at Andrew Flemming says.
“Using technology to accelerate Bible translation is absolutely a priority for Wycliffe and other Bible translation organizations.”
While emphasizing that A.I. will never fully replace human Bible translators, Flemming acknowledges A.I.’s role as an essential tool in the translation process.
“Like any tool, you need to understand what it can and can’t do and make sure that you fill those gaps,” he says.
“Using A.I. to help with basic idioms, grammar checks, spelling, and ensuring that key terms and phrases have been translated similarly throughout an entire translation process will reduce the overall time.”
How A.I. helps Bible translation
A.I. is notably beneficial in sign language Bible translation. Putting a Deaf believer on camera is too risky in some countries. That’s where the Chameleon avatar project comes in. More about that here.
Now, A.I. is not perfect. “The avatar technology would sometimes have hands crossover or merge into the avatar’s chest,” Flemming describes as examples.
However, “as you train it and correct those things, it helps the overall rendering of an avatar be smoother and more accurate.”
Less than two percent of the world’s Deaf population can access the Gospel in a known sign language. That’s about to change for Deaf people in sensitive countries.
“We are testing avatar technology in the field in [several] different places,” Flemming says.
“We’re not interested in producing books. Our vision is for people from every language to understand the Bible and be transformed,” Flemming says.
Header image courtesy of Wycliffe USA.