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Bangor Researcher joint winner of the BBC NewsHACK award

The  winning  Bangor University/ BBC Cymru Wales team at BBC’s #newsHackThe winning Bangor University/ BBC Cymru Wales team at BBC’s #newsHackDewi Bryn Jones from the Language Technologies Unit at Canolfan Bedwyr was one of the winners of the Audience Facing award at the BBC’s #newsHack: Language Technology, together with BBC Cymru Fyw, BBC Connected Studio, and BBC Digital in London on the 15 and 16 March 2016. The challenge at the event organised by the BBC News Labs was how to help improve journalism in a multilingual environment in order to take advantage of news and information in other languages, and read content in a number of different languages.  

In his opening remarks to the hackathon, Robin Pembroke, Head of Product BBC News & Weather Online, referred to the Vocab widget developed by Bangor’s LTU as an example of the type of innovative product they wished to create. During the two day event, Dewi Bryn Jones, along with Jack Hanigan Popp, James Owen, Robin Moore and Rhodri ap Dyfrig from the BBC, expanded Vocab, which is a feature to help learners and people who are unsure of their Welsh by hovering the mouse over a difficult word on websites such as those of BBC Cymru or Golwg360, and getting a pop-up English translation.

In a project entitled ‘Vocab for Video’ they developed Vocab’s ability to help users understand Welsh and/or English subtitles. Two examples from a BBC news story were used – one from Newyddion 9 about the recent discoveries of gravitational waves, and the other from a video in English with Ukrainian subtitles. The new player was able to show not only subtitles in two languages but also used the Vocab infrastructure to find headwords and display dictionary entries while the audio played. The experimental improvements to Vocab were give a scored using statistics form the LTU’s Cysill Ar-lein corpus, and usage figures for Vocab on the BBC CymruFyw website. The demo succeeded in displaying the Welsh news item to find, identify and display the dictionary entry for ‘tonnau disgyrchol’ at the correct time to help viewers understand   ‘gravitational waves’. This will be an automatic method to pre-select the dictionary entries to be displayed. As an additional feature, the player helped learners by allowing the video to be selectively slowed down so that learners could read the subtitles in full if needed.

Dewi Bryn Jones said “The event was quite an eye opener for me with so many good ideas there. The hope now is to build on the demo and extend Vocab to videos and other language pairs. I was delighted that we had won the award.”

Rhodri ap Dyfrig, Cymru Fyw also said: “Everyone at Cymru Fyw was very pleased that we’d won, and that we were recognised for the innovative work being undertaken in language technology for practical uses here in Wales”.

The team were also congratulated by Robin Moore, the Head of Innovation and Connected Studio, BBC Cymru Wales, On-line and Learning: “A great effort, thanks to Dewi, Jack, James and Rhodri.” The aim now is to build on this work to support video and other language pairs beyond Welsh and English.


Publication date: 22 March 2016