Meta announced on Wednesday what it's calling the "first AI-powered speech translation system for an unwritten language," according to a blog post from the tech company.
The system successfully translated the Taiwanese language Hokkien, a primarily oral language spoken across Taiwan. The system was developed as part of Meta's artificial intelligence project called Universal Speech Translator, or UST.
"The translation system is the first milestone for Meta AI's Universal Speech Translator project, which focuses on developing AI systems that provide real-time speech-to-speech translation across all languages, even primarily spoken ones," Meta said in a statement.
Most previous AI-powered efforts for translating languages have focused on written language, Meta says, but one of its goals is to translate more languages that lack a formal writing system. According to Meta, there are more than 7,000 living languages, but "over 40% are primarily oral and do not have a standard or widely known writing system like Hokkien."
In a video announcement posted to
said Meta would be open-sourcing the tool so people can use the new AI system to translate more languages.