On the Code Conference stage in California, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced an upcoming feature for Skype: Real Time Voice Translation.
The demonstration showed a German speaker speaking to an English speaker. The English words automatically were repeated by the computer in German, while the German speech was automatically spoken back by the computer in English.
According to German speaking audience members at the conference, the translation software performed “pretty good” but not perfectly.
Skype Translator results from decades of work by the industry, years of work by our researchers, and now is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams. The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition.
Microsoft has posted additional details about the feature on its corporate blog.
Microsoft hopes to use the huge number of conversations that take place on Skype to improve its translation tools with real language and speech patterns, which could lead to much better back and forth translations. Pall says the company is “working through” potential privacy issues that surround the use of customer calls.
Here’s the demo:
Nadella says that the feature will launch in beta “later this year” and it will eventually spread to all Skype-supported devices (which covers iOS and OS X). The beta will first become available for Windows 8. Nadella said that Microsoft has data for 40 languages (which it uses for Bing Translate), but it will take some time for all those languages to become available for this future software.
While Microsoft plans to debut Skype Translate on the Windows platform later this year in a beta capacity, the company says that it will expand to other platforms, including OS X and iOS, shortly after the Windows version launches.
Microsoft will start with a handful of languages and only for the Windows version of Skype, though Microsoft hopes to quickly add more languages as well as support for the many types of computers and mobile devices that Skype customers use.
At launch, the Skype translator will only work with a small number of languages, those that “it can do well” but Microsoft has plans to continually add additional languages to the app as development progresses.
Nadella was unsure if the feature would eventually become a paid add-on proposition, but it sounds like the feature will be free during the initial public beta period.
Here’s the promotional video as released by Microsoft: