Skype opens door to real-time translation feature

13 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘How are you?’ ‘Bien gracias!’: Skype launches online translator that could let you converse (and text) in ANY language.

Skype Translator is one of those technologies that makes you stop and say “woah, future.” A mythical service that can translate your speech in seamless real time, with accompanying transcripts, could eventually surmount the language barrier.

To start using it, you simply need to choose a contact, turn on the ‘Translation’ switch for that person, and start typing or speaking if you’ve made a call.The Skype Translator service was made publicly available back in December, and Microsoft removed the sign-up requirement for the preview programme on Tuesday. The programme analyses speech against audio snippets from millions of previously recorded samples, and transforms the audio into a set of text candidates. 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.

We took a look at Skype Translator in an advanced preview, and since then, the gates to this translation wonder have remained locked up behind a slow-rollout invite process. But a breakthrough by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams in neural network-based speech recognition reduced errors in speech recognition by more than 30 per cent. 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. 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.

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