Microsoft, which bought the popular voice and video chat service Skype in 2011, has announced a new translation solution for the service, allowing people who speak different languages to communicate almost in real time. Known as Skype Translator, this revolutionary new service will be available by the end of 2014. This technology marks the first of its kind on the market, as none of Microsoft's competitors have issued anything like it in the past.
Breaking Down the Language Barrier
This 15 year development project is designed to have minimal errors in translation. At the Code conference in California, Skype VP Gurdeep Pall demonstrated an online translation by speaking English while it was converted to German in real time so that it could be understood by German viewers. Skype Translator is designed to translate any language to another, which potentially marks the end of language barriers and global misunderstandings.
This new technology was first demonstrated a few years ago with a translation from English to Chinese. Microsoft began its research on machine translation in the late 1990s using text-based translation. The project evolved to include voice recognition technology, which has been available in the software giant's Office suite since 2001. This new technology not only translates languages quickly, it represents a step toward artificial intelligence due it its ability to learn new languages through a concept that Microsoft calls "transfer learning."
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Designed for Multiple Platforms
Skype can be used on television sets, computers and mobile devices. The service has 300 million monthly users in 2014. Decades prior to the announcement of Skype Translator, the TV series Star Trek projected a similar but more advanced technology of a universal translator. While this new technology hasn't quite caught up with science fiction, it's still ahead of the curve compared with competing messaging services such as Apple's FaceTime, Google's Hangouts and Facebook's WhatsApp.
Interestingly, Microsoft said it intends to make its translator cross platform. The Skype Translator can be used for various reasons such as education, conflict resolution and making new global connections. It can also expand business opportunities on a global level.