Skype Translator - a sensational breakthrough in anyones language

Posted: 30/05/2014ICreated by: Paul Sideridis

Just over 10 years ago Skype revolutionised the phone call by giving everyone access to live real-time person to person on-screen communication, for free.

It’s now an essential tool for business, for organisations and of course for personal use. But now the new Skype Translator app is going to start another revolution in the way we communicate.

skype translator

On May 27, at the inaugural Code Conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed the new Skype Translator app in action. By the end of this year it will be available for everyone.

In a live demonstration on stage at the conference Corporate Vice President of Skype and Lync, Gurdeep Pall, spoke with German speaking staff member Diana Heinrichs, with their conversation being interpreted in speech and also text.

In the landmark moment, Gurdeep Pall talked in English, with a Skype Translator male voice converting it to German. Diana Heinricks responded in German, with a female voice instantly converting her replies into English.

How they finally managed to do it

A product of decades of research, the technology fuses Skype voice, IM Flash technologies, Microsoft Translator, plus neural network-speech recognition.

According to Mr. Pall “All the pieces of technology were there, but they have never been put together.”

The technology has been a while coming. Microsoft had promoted the planning of a service very much like Skype Translator in a forward looking presentation several years ago. And founder of Microsoft Research, Rick Rashid made an address in 2012 with Microsoft machines briefly translating his English presentation into Chinese as he spoke. He talked about exciting breakthroughs in speech recognition research achieved by Microsoft Researchers working at University of Toronto. The future he said was coming is now here, or at least will be later this year.

Both Microsoft and Google have had existing translation services. Google mobile apps have the ability of speech-to-speech translation for certain languages, but it doesn’t yet work for an entire conversation.

Microsoft will launch with a limited selection of languages, in particular the languages which convert most easily with the technology. Microsoft is planning to add more languages quickly, as well as support for many different types of computers and mobile devices typically used by Skype customers.

Despite the predictable comparisons with Star Trek’s ‘Universal Translator’, Skype’s new offering genuinely fits the well worn phrase “once only dreamed about in science fiction”. But don’t we love it when someone brings a new one to the marketplace!

How will it impact on current Skype Users?

There are already 300 million conventional Skype users every month who are logging more than 2 billion minutes of conversation per day.

Skype Translator leapfrogs previous language limitations and opens the door for hundreds of millions more - interactions in business, diplomacy, health care, education, right across the whole spectrum of international interaction.

The language barriers that were a blocker to connection and productivity are coming down.

Skype Translator is going to be available as a Windows 8 beta app later this year. The Tower of Babel will finally be consigned to the history books, forever.

Software and machine learning is gradually changing the way we interact and do business online.
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