Better Translations Built on Already Strong Foundations With Heather Shoemaker, CEO and Co-Founder of Language I/O

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“We’re making AIs, robots, multilingual, just like we can make humans multilingual…” 


Is it better to build your own foundation or build upon already strong foundations? Heather Shoemaker, the CEO and Co-Founder of Language I/O, shares how her company’s tool selects the best translation engine and then supplements that service with terminology specific to each of its customers/companies. Learn how her passion for languages led to learning to code and eventually co-founding Language I/O.

Key Insights


How Can A Vital Choice Lead to a Better Solution? (11:00)

“We decided to… not build our own machine translation engine. There were lots of good ones out there that were going to provide a general, fluent translation. So we have this aggregation layer where we’re going to use our machine learning to intelligently select the best engine from a fluency perspective — today, in this moment [for instance], what’s the best engine for English to Spanish, Spanish to English?

It’s very interesting to think about how choosing not to do something can lead to innovation. Perhaps it’s worth it for all of us to first pause and consider what not to do when trying to solve a problem — and then decide what to do. 

How are Humans and Tech Working Together To Make Translations?  (14:07)

Heather provides a fascinating example of how Language I/O works with gaming companies that come up with new terms that do not have already existing translations into other languages. She does this in part to explain the large quantity of data that Language I/O maintains. Heather describes the process of how the gaming companies first determine translations that then are inputted into the Language I/O platform. The system then helps the chosen engine know to translate the unique game term. She explains further:

“We do this real time and… we have adaptive learning. So we will improve translations over time with NLP techniques that we’ve developed that will detect problematic terms. And if they reach a certain threshold of usage, we push them in front of human linguists that work in our system and those linguists will automatically push the preferred translation back into our system…”

What Inroads Is Language I/O Making in the Conversational AI Market (24:48)

“One tangential market where we’re really focused today would be the conversational AI market, which is a little bit different. But nowadays everybody kicks off their support session with a chatbot. So, there’s definitely overlap between the multilingual customer support space and the conversational AI space. However, conversational AI is much bigger than just customer support. So, we’re already launching integration, say, into [the] Salesforce Einstein bot. So you can spin up a chatbot in just one language and then, boom, our app makes your chatbot multilingual just like we make your support team multilingual.”

How Does Language I/O Embrace Wyoming and Remote Work? (33:32

Heather explains how Language I/O’s headquarters is in Cheyenne, Wyoming and that the company has a strong connection to the University of Wyoming’s Department of Computer Science. She shares how Language I/O engages talent in Wyoming and internationally too. This sort of dual-track approach is admirable and fruitful. It honors the local region and the talent there but also allows for finding great talent all across the globe. 

About the Guest:

BiO: Heather is the mastermind behind Language I/O’s core technology, which eliminates the need for expensive and time-consuming neural machine translation engine training by dynamically selecting the NMT engine that will best translate a given piece of content and imposing company-specific terminology onto any of the many NMT engines integrated into the Language I/O cloud solution. Prior to co-founding Language I/O, Heather was well-known for globalizing code for Fortune 500s. She was also the senior director of Product Management and Globalization for eCollege, which was acquired by Pearson Education during her tenure. While at Pearson/eCollege, Heather and her team built a next-generation, online college education platform, which was launched globally. Heather holds a Master of Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder College of Engineering as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle. She has lived in various parts of the United States and Mexico and speaks English and Spanish.”

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Episode 383