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Khaya African Language Translation and Speech Recognition AI Demonstrates Major Improvements

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Screenshot 2022 04 27 at 16.53.16

Khaya AI App Expands into Northern Ghana, Demonstrates Major Improvements in Performance by Learning from User Feedback, and Outperforms Google Translate in Yoruba Text Translation

The following describes work done by the NLP Ghana and Algorine teams, both of which I am a part of, to democratize modern machine learning tool access for Ghanaian and other African Languages. It culminates in the release of version 1.0.4 of the Khaya AI app, pushing further the automatic speech recognition (ASR) and machine translation “state-of-the-art” for over 60 million people in West Africa.

What Is The Inspiration Behind The Name Khaya AI?

Fig 1. Khaya AI is named after the Khaya African Mahogany tree. Just like the tree, it is rooted in Africa. We hope it will similarly become a nourishing, sustaining resource for Africa and Africans in the digital future. It is also a word for “home” in several Southern African languages.

Khaya AI is named after the Khaya African Mahogany tree. Just like the tree, it is rooted in Africa. We hope it will similarly become a nourishing, sustaining resource for Africa and Africans in the digital future. It is also a word for “home” in several Southern African languages.

What could the Previous Version of Khaya AI do?

Fig 2. Nine months ago, version 1.0.3 of the Khaya App was released — providing the world with Twi and Yoruba Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) capabilities, as well as Ga, Ewe, Twi and Yoruba neural text translators.

Nine months ago, version 1.0.3 of the Khaya AI App was released — providing the world with Twi and Yoruba Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) capabilities, as well as Ga, Ewe, Twi and Yoruba neural machine learning text translators. It included the crucial ability to gather feedback from the public to improve its quality over time.

Fig 3. Khaya AI Improves over time by learning from user feedback. The improvements described in this article were achieved over a period of 9 months, and usage of the translators by tens of thousands of people.

Over the past 9 months, the NLP Ghana and Algorine teams have been working diligently to improve the quality of these machine learning systems, and to address any concerns raised. We are happy to release today version 1.0.4 of the Khaya AI App, showcasing dramatic improvements in quality. You can already test the app on Web, Android or iOS by following the links in https://linktr.ee/nlpghana

We outline the various improvements achieved in this article, as summarized by the following list and subsequent sections. In summary, the systems are improving — a lot!

What Can The New Version of Khaya AI Do?

Highlights

  1. Addition of Dagbani translation and speech recognition marks the beginning of expansion of the AI into Northern Ghana — Hausa, Frafra and Buli are in the release pipeline next, among others. We are committed to a fairness of linguistic coverage.
  2. Our Yoruba text translator outperforms Google Translate. We are committed to providing world-class solutions across Africa
  3. Across the board improvements in text translation have been achieved— as measured by the BLEU metric, confirmed by human evaluators, and shown in Table 1.
  4. Across the board improvements in Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) has been achieved — as measured by the Word Error Rate (WER), confirmed by human evaluators, and shown in Table 2.
  5. Collaboration with the Harvard African Language School on East African Languages — to date including Swahili, Kikuyu and Kimeru — furthers our commitment to providing world-class solutions across Africa

Now let’s dive deeper into the enhancements being released and ongoing work.

Dagbani Introduced as Expansion in Northern Ghana Begins

If you go through the reviews gathered by the Khaya app on the Android store (where a majority of the current app user base exists) a notable theme is the absence of Northern Ghanaian languages in version 1.0.3 of the app. We invested a significant amount of effort in Northern language research over the past year and are proud to introduce Dagbani text translation and ASR in version 1.0.4. We worked closely with the Dagbani Wikimedia Group on data and evaluation of the Dagbani technologies. This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg for our planned Northern Ghanaian language coverage, with languages like Hausa, Gurune (Frafra) and Buli slated for text translator release shortly. Models for languages such as Dagaare, Mamprusi, Gonja and Kasem are in early research phases as well.

 

Text Translator Improvements

Fig 4. Khaya AI can help speakers of different languages to communicate with each other, by translating African languages — such as Twi, Ewe and Ga — into English and vice versa. By learning from user feedback, it improves over time.

We analyzed the feedback submitted by the user base — 10s of thousands of users across mobile (Android & iOS) and the web app. Human evaluators were needed to analyze this data since it was noisy, sometimes including entire messages of encouragement from users to us 🙃

Validated suggestions and corrections were fed back to the training data and the models were fine-tuned further on it. Training data was also augmented manually using other sources, using this feedback as a guide to uncover deficiencies in coverage. Additionally, training data was augmented with back translations using monolingual data, which is a well-known technique in the machine translation community to improve the fluency of models. As a result, significant improvements in the BLEU metric were achieved for most languages — See Table 1 (Ga improvements are ongoing, which is why it has been omitted from this table).

Table 1. Measured improvements in text translator performance using the BLEU metric (higher is better). Improvements were confirmed using human evaluators. Yoruba text translators outperform Google Translate by 1.5 BLEU points for the Yoruba to English direction and 9.8 BLEU points for the English to Yoruba direction on our benchmarks. Dagbani showing ∞ improvement indicates a previously nonexistent model. Ga improvements are ongoing, and it has been left out from this table

What is notable from Table 1 is that our text translators outperform Google translate in both directions! Since Yoruba is the only overlap in coverage — neither Google Translate nor any other existing solution cover any of the Ghanaian languages we can handle, to the best of our knowledge — this comparison gives us confidence that we are building a world-class solution.

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) Improvements

Fig 5. Khaya AI can help speakers of African languages to communicate with their phones and other devices, by transcribing African languages speech— such as Twi, Ewe, Yoruba and Ga — into text. This text can then be used by Alexa to control a smartphone, for instance, or further processed for a variety of applications

Due to the more sensitive nature of voice data, as well as the higher cost of collecting and storing it, we did not solicit ASR feedback in our deployment. We did however perform internal quality checks, discover drawbacks and keep augmenting the training data — tracking performance using the Word Error Rate (WER) metric, and confirming improvements using human evaluators. See Table 2 for the performance enhancements measured, which varied between 3.5% and 6%, and try the app today on your preferred platform to test the improvements for yourself!

Table 2. Measured improvements in Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) performance using the WER metric (lower is better). Improvements were confirmed using human evaluators. ∞ improvement indicates a previously nonexistent model.

What Comes Next?

1. API Release

We are building an API to empower African developers to build application solutions for their communities on top of the AI and ML systems we have created. Currently, API release is scheduled to open up for free trials within a couple weeks of this writing (scheduled for early May). 

Want to build a smart home solution? A language learning app? Any technology you can imagine that relies on translating and transcribing local language speech? Access our models through the API and deploy your solutions in a matter of days 😊

2. More Languages

Improvements to the Ga text translation system are in the pipeline for release. Additions of — 1. Swahili, Hausa, Frafra (Gurune), Buli, Dagaare, Mamprusi, Shona text translators, 2. Swahili and Hausa ASR —  are on the road map this year. 

Addition of the Kenyan languages Kikuyu and Kimeru — joint work with Prof. John Mugane of the Harvard African Language school — is in progress. Our ambition is to scale out across the African continent, with languages such as Amharic and Wolof also scheduled. As long as there is a need for our solutions, we will continue building them.

In fact the translators and models for a lot of these cases have already been built, the real difficulty has been scaling them out in production, at an affordable rate for a bootstrapping unfunded outfit like ourselves. Which brings us to the next section.

3. Language Scaling

When we started out, our models were “one-to-one” — meaning a separate model was trained for Twi to English, English to Twi, English to Ga, etc. As you can imagine, this approach is difficult to scale in production, as general purpose translators and speech recognition systems are relatively large and computationally expensive.

We have since moved to a “many-to-one” and “one-to-many” approach requiring one model for translating any local language to English and one model for translating English to any local language. This has eased a lot of the initial challenges we had scaling out the app to more languages, so we expect a more rapid expansion timeline from now on. Additionally, we are working towards a “many-to-many’’ model, requiring a single model for everything — which also will be able to handle translations between any pair of local languages — such as Ga to Ewe, Twi or Yoruba, and vice versa.

HOW TO SUPPORT OUR WORK

 

Fig 6. We are building a more inclusive world with cutting-edge African language tech, will you help us?

Please consider purchasing an ad-free version of the app to support our work. We have priced it at quite an affordable 10$/year or 1$/month. We will also be working to add some amazing exclusive functionality to the premium subscription, beyond being ad-free. How does Augmented and Virtual Reality with Object Detection in your chosen language sound? How about Voice to Voice translation? Or translating entire web pages on the web so you can browse the internet in your local language? Stay tuned!

 

Fig 7. You can support our work by purchasing a cheap ad-free subscription to the app.

Please share our work with your friends and social media communities. This work will only be able to continue with your support. If there isn’t enough support from the community, the work may not be able to sustain itself and stop. So please do support the work if you think it is worthy of existence. On the other hand, more support means we will be able to expand to new languages and make improvements to all systems faster and better. Be sure to submit feedback when you find it not performing well, so it can improve over time.

Are you a researcher who wants to participate in this exciting research revolution? Hit us up through https://ghananlp.org/contact

 

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People & Lifestyle

Amazing reasons why we love the new HUAWEI P50 Pro and HUAWEI P50 Pocket

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The HUAWEI P50 Pro and the HUAWEI P50 Pocket

Huawei recently announced the launch of the HUAWEI P50 Pro — the ultimate Camera Phone with Aesthetic Design and the new HUAWEI P50 Pocket – a beautiful foldable phone with fashion beauty and technological innovation.

 

Here are four reasons why we love these two magnificent flagships from Huawei

 It’s all about the looks!

Both of these phones have amazing designs. The Dual-Matrix camera design of the HUAWEI P50 Pro is unique with its double ring structure and makes the phone instantly recognisable. On the front, the phone features an expansive 6.6 inch 3D curved screen with a single punch hole camera. Gaming and watching videos on this HDR display with support for the full P3 colour gamut is a pleasure. The display is a 120Hz True-Chroma Display with a 300Hz touch sampling rate for a smooth user experience. Moreover, the IP68 water and dust resistance will let you have peace of mind.

 

Coming to the HUAWEI P50 Pocket, it is a beautiful phone with a seamless fold that leaves no gaps and folds into a thin and light form. This makes the phone easy to hold and pocket. The seamless fold is made possible by the new-generation Multi-Dimensional Hinge with a short radius. This hinge, combined with the exclusive Multi-Dimensional Lifting design, allows the HUAWEI P50 Pocket have a smooth and flat screen while also allowing the device to stay slim. When it comes to colours, you have White and Premium Gold colourways to choose from. The Premium Gold colourway is an ostentatious display of craftsmanship, while the white version exudes the beauty of diamonds through the advanced 3D micro-sculpture design. The Premium Gold colourway is only available on the HUAWEI P50 Pocket Premium Edition and was created in partnership with Iris Van Herpen, a well-known haute couture designer.

Read Also: Check out the three smartphones selling under GHS1,400 and keep an eye on the new HUAWEI nova Y70

The Cameras!

The HUAWEI P50 Pro’s Dual-Matrix Camera system delivers True to Life imagery with extreme clarity. The HUAWEI XD Optics allow consumers capture amazing images and reproduce fine details. HUAWEI P50 Pro also launches with XD Fusion Pro, an improved solution that incorporates a new Super Colour Filter System, True-Chroma Image Engine and Super HDR technology to significantly improve detail, colour and dynamic range. It also supports an unprecedented 200 times zoom range, helping users capture any object regardless of distance.

The True-Chroma Image Engine delivers the highest possible colour accuracy, creating images that reflect what is seen by the human eye. The ambient light sensing system uses a 10-channel multi-spectrum sensor, which is coupled with colour calibration of more than 2,000 colours across the P3 wide colour gamut, to improve its ability to detect ambient light and average colour hue accuracy by 50% and 20% respectively. In low-light scenarios, pictures come out brighter and more detailed. The Super HDR technology captures 28% more of the dynamic range for better backlit performance, while light and shadows are optimised. The HUAWEI P50 Pro supports 4K video recording across the full focal range. The all-new AIS Pro image stabilisation solution helps users easily capture stable handheld videos, while AI cinemagraph is great for creative shots that showcase minor movements.

 

The HUAWEI P50 Pocket presents a new breakthrough for HUAWEI IMAGETM.  Just like the HUAWEI P50 Pro, the HUAWEI P50 Pocket also comes with advanced camera features like the True-Chroma Image Engine, HUAWEI XD Optics, and HUAWEI XD Fusion Pro. The most interesting camera feature on the phone is the Super Selfie feature that uses selfie algorithms and takes advantage of the foldable form factor of the phone, and allows you to take superior, more atmospheric selfies using the main camera sensor. In this phone, you get the benefit of the Ultra Spectrum Image Technology, which can capture details on your subject that are otherwise invisible to human eyes. Yet another handy addition is the Sunscreen detection feature in the Mirror app, through which you can check how well you have applied sunscreen on your screen and avoid getting sunburned!

 

Long battery life and fast charging speeds

What powers the HUAWEI P50 Pro is a large 4,360mAh battery that supports 66W HUAWEI SuperCharge and 50W Wireless HUAWEI SuperCharge. What is mind-blowing is that even with a battery of this capacity, the phone is just 8.5mm thick. As for the HUAWEI P50 Pocket, it also has a large battery that supports the 40W HUAWEI SuperCharge.

 

Super Device Features is yet another reason to love these phones

Both phones are powered by EMUI 12 that produces an innovative UI with a clean and elegant look. Controlling multiple devices at once is as easy as controlling just one single device, thanks to the Super Device features. With the Distributed File System, both of these phones can also function as a wirelessly connected external storage unit for the PC, meaning you can access the files you want more easily than ever before.

 

Lastly, one feature on the HUAWEI P50 Pocket worth mentioning is the Smart Cover Screen that allows you to check notifications, schedules, calendar, music, weather, and more. Content and services seamlessly flow between the main screen and the cover screen, and users can even access the camera from the Cover Screen.

 

So what do you think of the new flagships from Huawei? We absolutely love them!

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2022 Tour de France to take Showmax Pro subscribers on 109th edition journey

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Tour De France square cover

The 2022 Tour de France is on track for its 109th edition. It will kick off on 1 July in Copenhagen (starting abroad for the 24th time) with the final stage finishing at the Champs Élysées in Paris on 24 July. Riders will cover a total of 3 328 km across flat, hilly and mountain stages.

Showmax Pro subscribers across the African continent (excluding those in South Africa, Mauritius and Lesotho) will be able to join the ride live to see who will finish the race in the coveted yellow jersey.

Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogačar, winner of both the 2020 and 2021 editions, is the clear favourite to bring home his third title in a row. The 23-year-old is riding for UAE Team Emirates. His compatriot Primož Roglič of Team Jumbo Visma has three Tour de France stages to his name and is also among the contenders. Others include Welshman Geraint Thomas, riding for Ineos Grenadiers, and last year’s runner-up, Jonas Vingegaard.

Two South African riders, Lotto-Soudal’s Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux’s Louis Mentjies, will be looking to make their country proud in the French tour.

Read also:SXSW Announces New Event in Australia

Other riders to keep an eye out for include Kenyan-born and four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, who will want to pick up a recent win with his last victory coming in 2017. He will be racing for Isreal-Premier Tech.

The 109th men’s edition of the Tour de France will be followed by the first ever edition of the Tour de France Femmes, one of women’s cycling’s two grand tours. This comes after years of campaigning to get an equivalent to the men’s tour, with the action getting underway from the 24 to 31 July. What many are calling a race for the history books will begin on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and finish at La Super Planche des Belles-Filles. The historic race will see riders compete in eight stages and cover 1 029km.

It has been announced that 24 teams are set to go head to head in the eight-day race. Frenchwoman Aude Biannic is looking to impress at her debut Tour Femmes in her home country with home support. Boasting Annemiek van Vleuten on their roster, Movistar are setting out to achieve overall victory at the Tour de France Femmes – a race that holds extra significance for teammate Breton Biannic, who will be challenging at home.

Elisa Longo Borghini is fresh off a 34-kilometre win at Paris-Roubaix and the Italian will now be 100% focused on paddling to victory at Tour Femmes.

Showmax Pro subscribers across Africa excluding South Africa, Mauritius and Lesotho can follow all the racing action at this year’s Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes.

Why Showmax Pro?

Showmax Pro is a streaming service available for Showmax subscribers in Africa that bundles the existing Showmax entertainment offering with music channels, news and live sports streaming from SuperSport. You can tune in from any of your favourite gadgets, anywhere you are in the globe.

Subscribers can live stream the latest seasons of the English Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, UEFA Europa and UEFA Conference leagues, the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and more.

The platform also offers a wide range of other live sports events including athletics, professional boxing, and the world’s biggest marathons.

Stream on two devices at the same time when you subscribe to Showmax Pro.
To learn more and join the Pros, visit showmax.com to subscribe to Showmax Pro.

Join the conversation on social media

Twitter: @ShowmaxPro
Instagram: @ShowmaxPro
Facebook: @ShowmaxOnline

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Cheeky Monkey Club Opens Doors To New Facility Ahead Of Mindcraft Summer Camp

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Cheeky Monkey Club Opens Doors To New Facility Ahead Of Mindcraft Summer Camp

On Saturday the 26th of June, 2022, the Cheeky Monkey Club, a leading activity centre for children in Ghana, held an open house in their new facility located in East Legon, ahead of their MindCraft summer camp set to start 4th July. (more…)

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People & Lifestyle

Tosin Ajibade Hosts 2022 New Media Conference School Debate

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Media practitioner and author, Tosin Ajibade-Oladeinde on Friday, June 24, 2022 successfully hosted the New Media Conference School Debate at Chalcedony School, Abijo G.R.A, Ibeju-Lekki. This year’s edition is themed ‘Does Social Media Enrich Education or take away from Education?’ (more…)

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People & Lifestyle

Storm Puma Awake Promo to send three lucky winners to Qatar World Cup

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Storm Puma Awake Promo to send three lucky winners to Qatar World Cup3

Kasapreko Company Limited has launched a National Consumer loyalty Promotion in a bid to garner support for Ghana’s senior national team, Black Stars, at this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar. (more…)

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People & Lifestyle

President appoints Hugh C.A Brown as Executive Director of Forest Services Division (FSD)

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Hugh C.A Brown Executive Director of Forest Services Division FSD of Forestry Commission

The President, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in accordance with the advice of the governing board of the Forestry Commission, given in consultation with the Public Services Commission, has appointed seasoned professional forester Hugh C.A. Brown as Executive Director of the Forest Services Division (FSD) of the Forestry Commission, Ghana, following a competitive interview supervised by the Public Services Commission to fill the vacant position.

Mr. Brown, with almost three decades of experience in tropical forest management, protection and development prior to the appointment was the Director of Operations responsible for forest plantations, a position he held for 10 years.

A letter signed by Ing. Mrs. Mabel Amoako-Atta, Secretary of the Public Services Commission noted that his appointment took effect from June 14, 2022 and charged Mr. Brown to help provide strategic vision and direction for the achievement of the strategic and business objectives and goals of the FSD and the Forestry Commission.
Profile of Mr. Hugh C.A Brown

Hugh is a certified forester with over 28 years’ work experience in tropical forest management, protection and development. Hugh holds a BSc. in Natural Resources Management and an MBA from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, and Masters in Forestry (MF) from Yale University, U.S.A.
His professional affiliations include Ghana Institute of Foresters (member, 1994); Society of American Foresters (Certified Forester, 2010); and Society for Ecological Restoration (member, 2010; Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner, 2018).

He currently represents Africa on the steering committee of TEAKNET, an international network of institutions, companies and individuals involved in the cultivation, research, harvesting, processing and marketing of teak timber. He was instrumental in helping Ghana win the bid to host the upcoming World Teak Conference (WTC 2022) in September this year.

Under his able leadership as Director of Operations (Plantations), FSD, over 450,000 hectares of degraded forest land is currently under restoration nationwide employing various landscape restoration interventions.
He also recently coordinated the planting of an estimated 7 million tree seedlings and 25 million tree seedlings under the President’s flagship programme dubbed Green Ghana 2021 and 2022 respectively which aims at restoring our degraded landscapes and contributing to the global fight against climate change.

He has co-authored publications in Forest Ecology and Management, and IUFRO World Series journals. He was the lead editor of the book ‘Ghana Forest Plantation Strategy: 2016 – 2040’ which provides a blueprint for forest landscape restoration in Ghana. In 2020 he was awarded the Prospect Street Award for environmental leadership by Yale University, the first person of African descent to win this prestigious global award.

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