Preview: Skype Translator lets the world connect beyond linguistic borders

Posted on Dec 16 2014 - 2:31pm by Sukanya

Since the year 2003, Skype has always been ubiquitously instrumental in nullifying great distances, one video call at a time. Following its transition from a desktop tool to a smartphone app, Skype has made communication a lot simpler and appealing with its adaptable interface revamping and efficiency. Today, the VoIP giant is releasing a feature that seems to hold a lot of promise for communication sans language frontieres. The Skype Translator aims to enable people conversing in different languages engage in an effortless exchange by working like a real-time translator for both parties. The company has opened a preview of this service that has been on the docket under engineers at Microsoft Research.

A screenshot from the video demo showing live transcriptions on the Skype Translator

A screenshot from the video demo showing live transcriptions on the Skype Translator

Microsoft has been planning the preview for a while now and in early November, registrations for a live trial of the translator were invited. The program which was first demoed at a Re/code Conference held in May 2014, is now out for a limited public viewing. The way the Skype Translator works is by reading words pronounced and translating them rapidly into text in the language of the receiver at the other end whose reply is again transcribed in the language of the sender and displayed on his screen. This way, both individuals can converse in their mother tongues and still be able to understand and respond to each other. The tool can also spell out voice chats and display a scroll of transcribed exchanges alongside the user’s screen. Even the text messages sent via Skype Instant Messenger will come under the preview of this program which is reportedly being developed to transpose about 45 international languages. Voice and Video calls will at least initially, have translation done in only a handful of dialects, the likes of English, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Portugese, Japanese, Russian and Spanish.

The trial period will start out with two primary input languages: English and Spanish and is restricted to systems running the latest Windows 8.1 Operating System. The Skype team has chosen to out the tool to test in a school in USA and one in Mexico where the kids are seen playing the ‘Mystery Skype’ game, trying to figure the motherland of the kids on the other end. Watch the video:

Microsoft asserts that the venture has seen a high number of trial sign-ins from Spanish and English speakers and believes that inputs from users around the world will help make the tool sharper and more intuitive. This is so because Skype Translator is built using machine learning algorithms that helps refine the transliteration by understanding the kind of word usage that you put in, which has high implications in documenting colloquial linguistics and sentence patterns. 

The Skype Translator looks like a great stride in making life a lot easier for people around the world, and in situations ranging from classroom interaction to world conferences. There is a lot of hope for future innovations that could bring this technology to smartphones and gadgets as simple as a pair of headphones. 


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