Microsoft Teases Real-Time Skype Voice Translation
Microsoft recently introduced the world to a new real-time translation feature for popular Skype voice over IP software, which the company says will debut in beta form on Windows later this year with support for other platforms to follow. At Re/code’s first ever Code Conference, the Redmond, Washington-based company presented the translation technology in an onstage demo with VP Gurdeep Singh Pall conversing with a German-speaking Microsoft employee.
According to those who were present for the demonstration, there was little to no delay in Skype’s translation between English-to-German or German-to-English but the accuracy was a bit spotty. Pall noted that Microsoft wanted each person to finish speaking so audience members could hear the machine translation. Pall said Microsoft is looking to make the translation service more accurate by harvesting data from real Skype conversations which will hopefully allow them to nail down colloquialisms and non-dictionary word usage along with other intricacies. A stumbling block with the issue is consumer privacy but Pall noted that agreement from only a small fraction of Skype’s huge user base would provide more than enough information.
For those of you who didn’t already know, a number of software makers including Google and third-party firms creating iOS apps have fielded their own versions of translation tools to limited success. What gives the new Skype technology a bit of excitement is its ability to deliver speech-to-speech translation for an entire conversation, not just single words or sentences. Microsoft plans to debut the technology in a consumer beta version of Skype for Windows sometime this year and said “a handful” of languages will be supported at launch. Following a rollout for Windows 8, the company will eventually add more languages and support for other platforms which will likely include Apple’s OS X and iOS.