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Microsoft Launches “Microsoft Afkar”We at CMIC have the pleasure to share with the world the public release of Microsoft Afkar, which showcases the latest technologies and innovations developed in our lab. ’Afkar’ is an Arabic word that means ‘ideas’!

The site is targeted for internet users in the Middle East and Arabic regions, introducing smart tools and solutions to enrich Arabic internet content and user experience in multiple domains like

  • Multi-language content authoring
  • Web browsing
  • Translation services
  • Arabic language experience

The current release of Microsoft Afkar includes:

Maren Transliteration: In the early 1990s, people had problems typing Arabic on their PCs. There were technical limitations, so technologies were mainly geared towards the English language. People had problems expressing themselves in English properly, especially in moments of joy, sorrow, when they needed to make a joke etc. Therefore, they devised a way for typing Arabic using English characters, writing Arabic phonetically using English characters in an ad-hoc, informal fashion. This convention evolved on its own and became very popular in SMS, IM, online forums, ads etc.

As part of our efforts at CMIC, we have innovated Maren, which works with the trend of typing Arabic with an English keyboard. Maren translates this Romanised Arabic into Arabic characters in real time, suggesting what the user might be trying to type. For example, all you need to do is spell the text out in Romanised Arabic, like “ezayak”, and Maren Transliteration will give you word options in written Arabic, “إزيك”. This is not a simple thing to accomplish, as there is no standardised convention for Romanised Arabic, everyone types it phonetically. However, with Maren we have very high accuracy rates. It is a great add-on and we would encourage anyone creating content in Arabic to try it out.

Maren is available as a desktop application, bookmarklet (in your browser) and JavaScript code (for web admins).

Maren Autocomplete: A smart tool that automatically completes the words you type in Arabic, helping you create correct sentences by giving you word options based on the context of the full phrase you are typing. AutoComplete has the following features:

  • It gives candidate suggestion up to four words.
  • It completes sentences based on the following data sources:
    • Arabic Wikipedia (over 140,000 articles)
    • 16 months of Microsoft Bing query logs
    • The Holy Quran
    • The Arabic Bible

Maren Multilingual: Users can simply type in classic Arabic or Romanised Arabic words in an English sentence. The application then gives you an instant and accurate English translation using Bing Translator.

Maren Morph: Maren Morph automatically analyzes a given Arabic word and displays possible analyses with corresponding diacritics for each analysis. The presented word analyses are ranked in a way that reflects their actual usage in written Arabic text, based on words usage statistics. Maren Morph is available as an accelerator in Internet Explorer (requires IE 8 or later).

WikiBhasha Beta: a multi-lingual content creation tool for Wikipedia. Using WikiBhasha, you can create new articles or enhance existing articles in Arabic Wikipedia. The tool uses Bing Translator in the background to give you content translated from English articles and then you can review and edit it before submitting it to Arabic Wikipedia.

Bing Instant Answers: An "instant answer" is a snippet of information related to the keywords in your Bing search query. Bing Answers quickly extracts pertinent information and displays it at the top of your search results. This helps you to access the information you want immediately, without having to visit a webpage.

CMIC has developed 2 answers:

  • Muslim Prayer Times: get the prayer times in Arabic capitals quickly and accurately. Type "Muslim prayer times" plus the capital name and you are done.

  • Instant Translation: impress your friends around the globe and learn some common phrases in various languages using the translator instant answer in Bing. Using Bing Translator services in the background, you can get translation for 32 languages including Arabic, English, Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Chinese, Italian, Korean, Thai and Russian.

It currently translates 32 languages including Arabic, English, Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Chinese, Italian, Korean, Thai and Russian.

As you see, Afkar is focusing on helping to support creativity and the generation of Arabic content. All applications are available for free. We would encourage anyone interested in the development of Arabic content and knowledge online to visit the portal and download the free applications.

Please try Afkar and send us your feedback and ideas as we actively develop further applications in the areas of Arabic linguistics and Arabic content.