Microsoft Debuts Real-Time Skype Translator Preview
Four months after its unveiling at the Code Conference in southern, Microsoft today launched the first phase of the Skype Translator Preview.
The program kicks off with conversational translations of Spanish and English, and it’s available for download on Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 Technical Preview to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page.
Skype Translator is the result of decade-long dedicated work from Microsoft’s research team. They invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for years, and their hard work is now paying off in the form of something that’s no less than a magic!
Microsoft believes Skype Translator will bring an end to all the geographical and language barriers, and could change the way the world connects and communicates in the future.
The company also gave an insight on how Skype Translator works in a blog post. According to the details shared, there are different components involved in driving the translation services. First, the words are understood by automatic speech recognition, which tries to makes sense of them.
Skype Translator then applies machine learning to interpret the grammar using the training data that comes from a variety of sources, including translated web pages, videos with captions, as well as previously translated conversations.
The company said the system also captures audio snippets anonymously to analyze the scripts so that it could train the system to better learn each language.
As the translation software is built on the machine learning platform, the more the technology is used, the smarter it gets. “We are starting with English and Spanish, and as more people use the Skype Translator preview with these languages, the quality will continually improve,” said Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft Corporate VP.
The last step in the process is speech recognition, which ensures the accurate representation of what the words are actually meant to be. Meaning if one person asks a question, it should sound like a question to the other.
The company shared a video in which it experimented the technology with students of two schools — Peterson School in Mexico City, and Stafford Elementary School in Tacoma, USA.
The students play a game of ‘Mystery Skype’ where they ask questions to determine the location of the other school using Skype Translator, and the results are just amazing.
The service also translates real-time chat (text) conversations for 40 different languages including Dutch, Estonian, German, Hindi, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean and Klingon.
If you’re interested, you can download the new Skype Translation Preview, but you’ll need an invite to actually use it. The company is also set to launch a program where invitees can invite a limited number of other users.