Skype is going to break the language barrier with speech-to-speech translation

Microsoft's trek into unfamiliar territory with the upcoming translation feature is the stuff of science fiction

In what is claimed to be a world first, Microsoft has pushed Skype into uncharted territory, with the introduction of its Star Trek-like close to real-time speech-to-speech translation feature.

The notion seems brilliant – language barriers get broken, and you don’t have to do a thing. But of course, this isn’t the first time we’re seeing Microsoft tread in that space – its Cortana personal assistant for Windows Phone 8.1, Xbox 360, as well as Xbox One all feature some form of voice technology.

Speaking at the recent Re/Code’s inaugural Code Conference in California, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, claimed that the whole world needs to cross the language boundary, because English isn’t the most commonly spoken language worldwide (we had to read that twice to believe it too – Chinese and Hindi are more widely spoken).

READ MORE: Listen to that voice in your head and get the Xbox One 

It's like something out of Star Trek

Called the Skype Translator, the pre-beta technology is actually three technologies rolled into one – speech recognition, text-to-speech and machine translation.

It works pretty simply – Skype Translator picks up the words of person A and transcribes it to text, which is then translated into the language of person B, before getting voice-synthesised into speech. How long it takes for the entire process depends on the length of the sentence spoken.

If you’re questioning how Skype Translate knows which language to translate to, it’s not that smart because you’ve got to pre-set it on your preferences. Apparently the application will also study accents and over time, improve on its translations.

You can expect Skype Translator as a standalone Windows 8.1 app towards the end of the year but Microsoft has big dreams to eventually incorporate it fully into Skype.

READ MORE: Opinion: Would you pay more if SingTel charges WhatsApp and Skype for its data services?  

[Source: Mashable, Image:9to5mac]

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