Edinburgh researchers to bring ‘Alexa NicGugaill’ to life
University researchers in Scotland are trying to develop a Gaelic-speaking voice assistant like the Alexa, Siri, and Google voice assistants used by millions of people to check the weather, play music, or shop online. According to a news report in The Scotsman, linguists and artificial intelligence (AI) developers at the University of Edinburgh want to use AI to convert spoken Gaelic to text.
The project is led by Dr. Will Lamb of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures. “Ensuring that Gaelic has a place in the modern technological landscape is key for its survival,” Lamb told The Scotsman newspaper. Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches, an online repository of decades of spoken Gaelic folklore, song, and radio programs, also is involved in the project.
A Scottish Gaelic voice assistant that can respond to spoken Gaelic with spoken Gaelic could be enormously useful, not just for ordering Stornoway black pudding online, but in Gaelic education for adult learners and children. Imagine a digital voice tutor for Scottish Gaelic powered by AI, for example. That could take an interactive program such as Duolingo to an entirely new level.
What should we call this voice assistant? Gaelic scholar and poet Donald E. Meek already has an answer in his poem “Moladh Alexa NicGugaill” published in 2019 on his Facebook page “Meek Lines.”
Some questions (and commands) Meek asks “NicGugaill”:
“A bheil naidheachdan agad, Alexa mo ghaoil?”
“A bheil Beethoven agad, Alexa mo ghaoil?”
“Cuir air dhomh an solas, Alexa mo ghaoil”
“Thoir dhomh coltas na sìde, Alexa mo ghaoil”
How would you use a Scottish Gaelic digital voice assistant? Cuiribh fios thugainn/Let us know.