Skype Translator, the near real-time translation feature in Skype, which was announced in May and for which the preview sign up started in November of 2014, is now available. Those who signed up for the preview back in November, and those who are on Windows 8.1 (or Windows 10 Technical Preview), can now voice and video chat in English and Spanish in close to real time.
In addition to the voice translation between English and Spanish, more than 40 languages are available for IM conversations. A sample video provided by Skype:
Per Microsoft, this is a project that has been over ten years in the making:
Skype Translator is a great example of the benefit of Microsoft’s investment in research. We’ve invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they’re emerging as important components in this more personal computing era. Skype Translator is the most recent and visible example.
On the Skype Garage blog, they explain how the Skype Translator technology works, simplistically:
It is interesting that the blog states how Microsoft has learnt colloquial language usage by being the translation service for social media sites like Facebook. It is clear that whatever deal Microsoft made with Facebook and Twitter to supply the translation services on those sites, was not just to be the translation service, but also to learn from the data and improve other products in their portfolio and fine tune products like Skype Translator.
Another nuance mentioned in the blog post is that the translation appears almost as a third person because based on research, they know customers “who are used to speaking through a human interpreter are quickly at ease with the situation”.
Although there will be kinks in the service, this is a bold new product that can truly help break barriers in communication around the world. Also, given that the service relies on machine learning which in turn gets better as there appears more data to work with, Microsoft and Skype urges everyone to try the service and provide feedback.
Sign up now at this page.