Gabriel Emmanuel: World’s first developer of AI capable of translating 2,000 African languages

by Duke Magazine
Gabriel Emmauel, CEO of OpenBinacle

It is no doubt that Africa is abundant in ethnicity with over a thousand of ethnic groups speaking distinct languages and dialects. It is also true that this difference in culture and belief have cost the African continent a lot in term of communication understanding slowing down social, economic, and political growth.

According to Language Connect, Africa is continent where more than 2,000 languages are spoken, a lack of translated information is often the key missing element between aid and the people it’s intended to help.

A Nigerian developer is on the track of filling up these language potholes, thereby making life easier with a messaging platform that is able to translate over 2,000 African languages.

The global Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform, known as OBTranslate, is the first of its kind, and is intended to create massive jobs for Africans, said Gabriel Emmanuel, the Information Communication Technology (ICT) expert and brain behind the platform.

Emmanuel, who is the CEO of OpenBinacle, a Europe-Africa based technology company, said OBTranslate technology was built on machine learning, AI and big data analysis which identified language patterns and tasks.

In 2017, his company, OpenBinacle, developed OBTalker which is a messaging app similar to Whatsapp and Telegram. The app is a real-time cloud-based messaging platform that supports voice and video calls, said a report by 

Normally, OBTalker supports text to speech feature and is capable of translating into 26 languages. But the newly developed OBTranslate, which is built on the existing design of OBTalker, is expected to have a wider scope with the many more languages in its system, the report said.

“Our goal is to break language communication barriers in rural and urban areas in Africa and it will enable self-driving cars, smartphones, linear robots and wireless technology to communicate and interact with Africans in their dialects,” said Gabriel.

“Farmers will be able to trade their goods and services without language communication barriers,” Emmanuel told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an email.

The primary module of operation of the portal includes voice recognition and accent, messaging protocol, African-based programming languages, natural language processing, education materials, television subtitles and music lyrics, among others.

The portal will enable farmers to trade their goods and services without language communication barrier. 
Image credit: Self Help Africa

41-year-old Emmanuel, from Edo State, Nigeria, studied ICT and Robotics in India, and began computing at the age of 18 when he built his first software to analyze petroleum crude oil seismic data, according to local media.

His new invention, which was born out of the need to expand the African ICT market and improve lives, would provide jobs for millions of Africans who have the capacity to teach their machine Pidgin English or their native languages, the scientist said.

“Our machine language, AI algorithms with neural network connections have curated billions of task waiting for Africans who can teach our machine their local dialect.

“The first phase of the project comes with nine billion tasks, and the second phase comes with 12 billion tasks.

“It is projected to hire about 100 million Africans, with a projection of 3.6 billion USD passive income for Africans with the capacity,” said the German-based developer.

African-based developers are really coming out in large number to carve out Artificial Intelligence (AI) in solving the continent’s challenges. 

In 2017, 40 African countries participated in the maiden FIRST Global international robotics competition for students in the United States where Republic of Benin and Liberia were ranked in the top 12 among the 163 nations. 

Outside the Africa coast, robots are being employed with Artificial Intelligence technology that makes them to act and speak like humans, as well as giving body languages. An example is the humanoid robot Sophia which was developed by American company Hanson Robotics. 

Concerns have, however, been raised in Africa about robots taking over jobs of young people. The United Nations revealed in 2016 that robots will take away two-thirds of jobs in developing countries. However, there has been criticisms from some quarters who described Artificial Intelligence as being biased against Africans.

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