Skype’s Incredible New App Translates in Real-time
Skype clearly understanding the need of the hour has created an app which might be easiest way to stay in touch with your friends around the globe. With this app, Skype stays true to its motto and hopes to make its international connections easier. The new feature automatically translates conversations in real time. Before the end of 2014, Microsoft plans to release a beta Skype app that will enable real-time translation of people verbally speaking in different languages.
Skype Translator, as Microsoft is calling it, appears to be an extension of the real-time translation Microsoft has been developing for over ten years. The company had previously shown the technology in action, with the real-time translation of speech delivered by Microsoft’s Rick Rashid in China. Even more recently, Microsoft released Bing Translator, which performs the same function as Skype Translator, just on Windows 8.
The feature, dubbed Skype Translator, was demonstrated on Tuesday by Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella during an onstage interview at the Recode Code Conference in Palos Verdes, Calif. During the demonstration, Nadella conducted a conversation with Skype chief Gurdeep Singh Pall, who was speaking German, while Skype provided real-time translation of the German into English and vice versa.
On the Microsoft Research site, the company said it’s been working on machine translation for more than a decade, and that earlier translating voice over Skype was “considered a nearly impossible task.” However, four years ago the program got a jumpstart with a project that was able to translate phone calls in real-time. Meanwhile, a separate project improved speech recognition accuracy, Microsoft said. That eventually bolstered other services that listen to human voices, like Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant for Windows Phone.
Microsoft had bought Skype in May 2011 for $8.5bn (£5.2bn) – making it the firm’s biggest acquisition at the time. However, it has been facing increasing competition from a multitude of rivals, including Google Hangouts, Apple’s Facetime, Blackberry’s BBM, Tango and Viber.
Manoj Menon, managing director at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan said that once launched, the new feature could have wide ranging applications in sectors such as education and tourism. He added that the translation feature may also help Microsoft to integrate Skype with its office social network site Yammer. Microsoft also bought Yammer – which operates like Facebook for communication within companies – for $1.2bn in 2012.
“Microsoft has acquired some great assets such as Yammer and Skype over the past few years,” Mr Menon said. “The ability to integrate these together will help unlock their value and the translate feature is a wonderful step in that direction.” Skype has also been taking other steps to try and attract more users. Last year, it confirmed that it had developed technology for 3D video calls. But it has said it could be many years before the technology is launched.
While it’s unclear how the beta app of Skype Translator will relate to Skype itself (will the two remain separate apps?), it’s certainly clear that Microsoft is moving ahead fast in terms of real-time translation.