Microsoft says they’ve created software that can translate news stories from Chinese to English as well as a human translator.

It’s potentially an enormous breakthrough. AI has been used to drive cars, and has proven better than humans at playing strategy board games like Go. But natural language was seen as one of the toughest tasks for computers to emulate.

The team said the software “achieved human parity” on a specific set of news stories often used for testing called newstest2017. They then hired two external experts to compare the results to two other translations produced by humans.

Microsoft says it hopes to apply this breakthrough to its commercial products. But it’s worth noting that it’s still early. They’re only announced human parity in Chinese to English, for instance, and only on a test set of stories.

But Microsoft’s breakthrough in translating news comes as Chinese companies are investing big in AI -- including bots that can write news stories by themselves.

Tencent’s Dreamwriter can do basic financial news stories. And Xiaomingbot on Toutiao wrote sports stories during the Olympics.

But one writer was skeptical, telling the South China Morning Post that writing news needs a human touch.

“It’s not just language skills,” says Yang Yang, who works for one of the largest English language newspapers in China. “Being a good reporter, you need to experience, feel and even smell."