New Skype live translation service demoed by Microsoft will launch later this year
Microsoft has shown off on-the-fly translation of a Skype video call and promised that speaking English loudly and slowly while on holiday will soon be a thing of the past.
In a demo the company hosted a Skype call with one person speaking German and the other English. Both callers were translated allowing the other person to understand what they were saying.
Microsoft boss Satya Nadella said it would allow people to “communicate with anybody without language barriers.
Skype Translate should launch later this year although it will initially only be available on Windows computers. Microsoft didn’t confirm if the new feature would be free or not, although at launch the software will still be in beta and support just a few languages.
Nadella explained that Microsoft’s machine translation project began fifteen years ago and that the company had been building a “deep neural net” that allowed its technology to recognise and translate speech.
The Microsoft chief-executive said that the technology was able to learn a lot like a human brain and got better at translating languages over time:
“You teach it English, it learns English, then you teach it Mandarin, it learns Mandarin but it becomes better at English.
“Then you teach it Spanish it gets good at Spanish but it gets great at both Mandarin and English. And quite frankly none of us know exactly why. It’s magical.”
This isn’t the first time Microsoft has revealed the inner workings of its live translation technology. Almost two years ago the company showed a live translation from English to Chinese.