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December 16, 2014

New Skype Technology Enables Nearly Real-Time Translation

Microsoft has broken the language barrier with Skype Translator, a new technology that can translate speech, practically in real-time.

The Skype Translator preview program is still in a formative stage, in which those who sign-up via this page can aid Microsoft in refining the technology.

“Even the smallest conversations help Skype Translator learn and grow, which can enrich your communication and lead to amazing things,” Microsoft said on its Skype Translator website.

Using Skype Translator a person will speak in the language of his or her choice and the words will then be translated into the recipient’s chosen language.

After one person speaks, the system then does its best to audibly translate the words in real-time. On the Skype display will be a text translation of what was said to act as a fail safe in case the automated voice makes a mistake.

The oral translator is currently available only in English and Spanish, but more than 40 instant messaging languages are available to those who have signed up and use Windows 8.1 on a desktop, tablet or Smartphone. Language selections will improve as people sign up for the preview version and Microsoft tinkers with improvements to the software.

“Skype Translator relies on machine learning, which means that the more the technology is used, the smarter it gets,” Skype corporate vice-president Gurdeep Pall said in a blog post. “This is just the beginning of a journey that will transform the way we communicate with people around the world. Our long-term goal for speech translation is to translate as many languages as possible on as many platforms as possible and deliver the best Skype Translator experience on each individual platform for our more than 300 million connected users.”

Microsoft did a test run of its software with two schools: Peterson School in Mexico City and Stafford Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington.

The children played a game of ‘Mystery Skype’ in which they asked questions to determine the location of the other school. The Washington class spoke English, of course, and the Mexican class spoke Spanish. As the children posed questions, Skype Translator translated back and forth from Spanish to English and vice versa.

Check out the video here:

The technology works by combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.