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Microsoft Afkar: New Arabic Apps to Break Down The Language Barriers

Microsoft Innovation Lab in Cairo (CMIC), focuses on research in the areas of mobile multimedia, social media, machine learning and natural language processing. Part of CMIC’s job is developing new technologies that can be transferred into our products and services, with a particular emphasis on addressing the needs of customers in the Middle East.

CMIC created a handful of apps to help bridge that gap and they built a new website — Microsoft Afkar beta, where you can download them for free. Specifically, they’ve developed tools to help create content in multiple languages, to browse the web and to translate.

‘Afkar is an Arabic word that means “ideas”. Microsoft Afkar gives Arabic users from all over the world the chance to play with cool new tools and ideas coming out of Cairo Microsoft Innovation Lab.”

Many Arab speakers have taken to writing in Arabic phonetically using the English alphabet. This practice takes place primarily within the confines of text message and, in some cases, on the web. Roughly two years ago, the CMIC team developed an application called Maren, which essentially provided the same functionality within Windows, so Arabic speakers using this method of communication were no longer limited in their choices.

Now CMIC has expanded the capabilities of Maren through the tools available on the Afkar web site:

  • Maren Transliteration converts your Romanized Arabic into Arabic.
  • Maren Autocomplete provides up to four word options based on the context of the paragraph you’re typing, and completes sentences based on data
    from Wikipedia, the Quran and the Arabic Bible.
  • Maren Multilingual uses Bing Translator to give you an instant, English translation of the classic or Romanized Arabic words you typed.
  • Maren Morph automatically analyzes an Arabic word that you’ve typed using English, and gives you the possible choices, along with corresponding
    diacritical marks.

In addition to the Maren tools, you can also download WikiBhasha Beta, a tool created by Microsoft Research India that allows Arab speakers to create new articles in Arabic Wikipedia, or to enhance existing articles. CMIC also contributed an instant answer for Bing that gives the prayer times for all the Arabic capitals, and they contributed to the Bing Translator, which translates 32 languages, including Arabic.

More Info: Microsoft Afkar

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