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I have seen sources claiming that Google Translate uses artificial intelligence, like blog articles published by Google, Wikipedia articles and questions from Artificial Intelligence Stack Exchange tagged google-translate. Still, I needed help understanding if it's or not a Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) tool. I look for mentions of terms like Large Language Model (LLM) and Generative Pre-Training Transformer (GPT). I only found words comparing Google Translate and GNMT to GPT, but these statements don't clearly state that they belong to the same category, in this case, GenAI tools.

As Google Translate has many delivery end-points, let's focus only on one of their application software, which has a web address https://translate.google.com.

Google Translate Web application

This application software has two big boxes, one for the user to enter the text to be translated and another showing the translated text. Above these boxes are dropdown buttons to choose the source / target languages. There are other user interface elements, but they aren't relevant to this questionquestio

I understand that Google Translate's Web app and (OpenAI) ChatGPT's web app can't be compared regarding user experience and purpose. The input of the first should be the text to be translated. It might be entered using the mouse and keyboard or the device microphone. It also allows images, documents and web pages but doesn't get instructions from the user using natural language.

In contrast, the second gets "messages" as in a chat app conversation. They are referred to as "prompts".

I would like to know if, as of August 6th, 2023, the Google Translate Web app should be considered a GenAI tool.

The answer to this question might be extrapolated to other web applications and, in the best case, to other application software, no matter the target platform.

Question: Can Google Translate, the web application, be classified as a GenAI tool, similar to ChatGPT by OpenAI? Please explain why.

Literature Review

Below are some examples of the literature I have read looking to find the answer to this question.

Wikipedia Articles

  • Google Translate This article describes Google Translate as a neural machine translation service that uses a artificial neural network. It also says that it's capable of deep learning.

  • Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT)

    This article mentions an artificial neural network to improve the fluency and accuracy of Google Translate.

  • Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI),

    This article has a Modalities section having subsections for text, code, images, music, video, molecules and robot actions. The text subsection mentions natural language processing, machine translation and natural language generation. The one that is related is machine translation. Still, it's not clear to me that the way that Google Translate uses machine translation and how it delivers its output and the user experience could be considered as Generative AI.

  • BERT (Language Model)


Clarification notes derived from comments

I don't know if a broadly accepted criterium exists to classify AI tools, including GenAI, as a category. I don't trust ChatGPT or other GenAI tools to give a reliable and accurate answer.

One of my concerns about Google Translate is if it has the hallucination problem as ChatGPT.

While this question is not about if GenAI tools could do translation tasks, the answer might argue in favor or against classifying it as GenAI tools based on the GenAI tools' abilities. Remember that answers should explain why.

Continued research

https://ai.google/discover/generativeai/ doesn't mention Google Translate.

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    The downvoter probably thought "Only the publisher can answer so why bother". I would argue that both parts of this thought are wrong: 1) GanAI specialists may be able recognize signs of GenAI in a product without reading the source code. 2) This is interesting, and even has implication on my daily life, for instance should I use Translate instead of Bard if I need a hallucination-free translation, etc. Aug 7, 2023 at 1:41
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    Is the question about whether the term "generative AI" should include AI text-to-text translation tools like Google Translate, or is there a particular definition already in mind and want to check whether Google Translate meets its criteria?
    – SirBenet
    Aug 9, 2023 at 13:12
  • @SirBenet I don't have in mind a specific classification criteria. I know that Google Translate is "old" as "product" and that it have being continually improved. Do you think that we, the GenAI SE community should define what we understand as Generative AI first?
    – Wicket
    Aug 9, 2023 at 13:22
  • There's a related discussion in Meta: genai.meta.stackexchange.com/q/163/12
    – Wicket
    Aug 9, 2023 at 13:24
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    "Do you think that we, the GenAI SE community should define what we understand as Generative AI first?" - If the question's intent is about whether Google Translate's properties (the unknown in this case) fit a definition of GenAI, then referencing a definition (e.g: one determined on Meta) may help - so answers can find statements/results to say if its implementation/behaviour fit those criteria. If the question's intent is more about whether GenAI's definition (the unknown in this case) should include translate, it may be more opinion-based - could be a subtopic to discuss on that Meta post.
    – SirBenet
    Aug 9, 2023 at 14:47

1 Answer 1

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Since generative means creating new content, Google Translate isn't a Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) tool.

By new content let's understand it as original content broadly. While the translation ability as how Google Translate manages it might deserve recognition as a complex task, when it's performed using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technologies, it doesn't create new content.

Suppose Google Translate incorporates the possibility for users to specify the translation expected outcome, preferences and parameters using natural language processing, i.e., it provides an output explaining the translation and suggesting the following steps for the user, then it might be considered a GenAI tool.

Reference

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  • Do you mean Google Translate should not be seen as a GenAI tool in context of this site, or do you mean Google Translate does not fall under the umbrella term "Generative AI" as it is used in general inside the scientific field of AI?
    – Doc Brown
    Jan 25 at 17:14

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