Catalan language voice assistant database to receive further €12m funding
AI project called AINA aims to teach machines to understand and speak Catalan
The Catalan language voice assistant database, AINA, will receive a further €12 million in funding over the next four years. The Catalan government announced on Monday the project would get €3 million of public funding per year between 2023 and 2026.
The cabinet launched a campaign in February asking people to read short sentences out loud to improve Project AINA, which facilitates the development of voice assistants in the Catalan language. The campaign is led by Barcelona’s Supercomputing Center (BSC) and by the end of the summer it had already stored one million voice notes of short phrases, with 2,400 hours recorded in Catalan.
Anyone can read some sentences out loud or check whether the pronunciation of other people reading some is correct at projecteaina.cat.
The goal is to get thousands of Catalan speakers of different areas, genders, and ages across the territory to record themselves reading short sentences already available online.
In April, a message advertising AINA was displayed on one of New York's Time Square billboards for a day.
Amazon and its voice assistant show interest in AINA
"The future of Catalan is played in this field, and we have to be very active," said business minister Roger Torrent. "We want Catalan to have the same opportunities in the digital world as any other language. That is why we continue and give both stability and security to Project AINA with this investment, in order to complete an initiative that we think is key for the country."
"We want to be able to talk to machines in our language, so we have to teach machines to understand and speak Catalan," Torrent added.
BSC's associate director, Josep Maria Martorell, said that this funding will ensure the continuation of the project and the 30 jobs that it is providing.
He also explained that companies such as Amazon and its voice assistant, Alexa, have already shown interest in AINA.
"From now on, we will work with collections of writings in several specific fields such as biomedicine, law, and culture," he explained.
"We sometimes joke saying AINA Catalan language voice assistant database is an 'excuse eliminator' as from now on, small or big companies will not have an excuse not to incorporate the Catalan language in their textual, audio, and audiovisual services," he added.
The project is just one of the several initiatives launched by the cabinet in the past few months as a response to recent surveys showing that the use of Catalan is declining, especially among new generations, the ones that are using new technologies more often.
Catalan language-related podcasts
Check out the episode of our podcast Filling the Sink published on November 21 on this topic.
Also, we published another episode in September 2021 with tools on how to learn Catalan.