Science and Tech


Microsoft Demos Real-Time Translation Software For Skype

Microsoft's translation software will soon handle multilingual Skype conversations in real time.
Posted at 12:26 PM, May 28, 2014

Microsoft knows what you're saying — in any of 40 different languages you might say it in.

At Re/code's Code conference Tuesday, Microsoft demo'd near-real-time language translation via Skype.

"Is it true that you were soon moving to London?"

"Yes, I'm currently planning to move there sometime between the middle of June to the beginning of July, if everything goes on track."

Microsoft has been hammering on speech recognition and translation for years, with the help of machine learning systems that imitate human neural networks. These "deep learning" machines can effectively teach themselves more about how language works — and get better at recognizing it. One writer at GigaOM says:

"I can't help but be reminded of Google no longer understanding how its systems are learning to identify objects in photos so accurately – the technology is hugely impressive and, in developing a mind of its own, kind of disturbing."

"It is early days for this technology," Skype rep Gurdeep Pall says, "but the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator isn't a galaxy away, and its potential is every bit as exciting as those Star Trek examples."

Microsoft packaged an earlier version of this translation tech as Bing Translator for Windows Phone. PCWorld says Microsoft has the right idea rolling it into a more widely used app.

"The new Skype Translator simply makes more sense than a dedicated app, given the different scenarios in which Skype is used: in business, to talk to friends and relatives internationally, and in education."

Not to mention the tech can translate 40 languages right now and would reach users on all seven continents.

Skype boasts 300 million users a month, and together they log more than 2 billion minutes of call time — or more than 3,800 years of Skyping — every day.

Skype itself is available on everything from PCs to smartphones. The new translator will be headed to Skype's Windows 8 app first, reportedly before the end of 2014.