Microsoft expands Skype Translator beta to all comers

13 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft opens Skype Translator Preview to all, but still calls it a preview.

The Skype Translator service was made publicly available back in December, and Microsoft removed the sign-up requirement for the preview programme on Tuesday.Microsoft unveiled Skype Translator last May — it’s kind of like the babel fish from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” that leech-like creature you stick in your ear that instantly translates any language to your native tongue in real-time. The company is making Skype Translator Preview available to everyone running Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 Preview, but keeping the “Preview” name intact. This means that users no longer have to be approved before downloading the app, and can now freely use Skype Translator to translate English, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin in real time.

Microsoft said that Skype Translator is available to all, but you will need to be using a Windows 8.1 or Windows 10-powered PC or tablet to access the service. Both provide near real-time translation, with the IM component taking what you type and delivering it directly to the recipient in the language of their choice after you hit ‘send.’ Skype’s Translator team originally started letting people test the preview software last December, and they’ve since made progress by refining the original translation and also offering up new languages consistently. At the time, I was impressed with Skype Translator Preview’s ability to deliver translated English audio to her and spoken Spanish translation to me instantly. User testing is likely a key ingredient in further progressing the translator’s efficacy, so this wider beta launch should mean that both it’s closer to being ready to prime time, and that it’s about to get smarter, faster thanks to a sizeable user pool increase. Skype Translator has a ton of useful features: You can call almost anyone who has Skype, and Translator will translate your conversation into another language in real-time — you’ll hear the speech translated in your native language and you can also read it in a chat box, as Skype provides full on-screen transcripts of your calls.

Early adopters have provided feedback to Microsoft over the course of the past five months, and now it’s time for everyone to test Skype Translator and see if it really will change the way we communicate. In December, Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, told me the system does try to make sense of the words, “It’s not good enough to just get all the words you’re saying, [you] have to understand a little bit about the words,” he said. Microsoft’s Skype Translator app is only available on Windows right now, and you’ll need a Windows 8 or Windows 10 PC to download the app from the Windows Store. An application like this could certainly help break down the language barriers between many people and ultimately bring the world closer together, but more importantly, it could save lives.

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