Microsoft has shown more interest in Skype in recent years, including making it far more web-friendly, and introducing a business-centric version in place of Lync. The latest move is designed to break down more barriers, making it easier for people in different countries to communicate with each other, regardless of the language they speak.
Skype Translator preview is the first step towards making language irrelevant. Rather than relying on interpreters, users can communicate through Skype and translations will be automatically performed. English and Spanish are supported as spoken languages, but there is support for more than 40 written languages as well.
If you need to communicate with people in another country, there's now no need to learn each other's language as Skype can do the hard work for you. Near-instantaneous translation is available whether you are conducting a voice or a text chat, making this a tool that will be of great interest to business users.
Introducing the new Skype feature, Microsoft says:
Skype Translator is a great example of the benefit of Microsoft’s investment in research. We’ve invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they’re emerging as important components in this more personal computing era. Skype Translator is the most recent and visible example. Skype Translator relies on machine learning, which means that 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.
As we have become used to with the new Microsoft, the company is looking for feedback, and the preview phase will help to improve the accuracy of translations -- there's a little guide to how the recognition and translation process works available here.
Microsoft has already given school children a chance to try out Skype Translator, and the video below shows how they got on while demonstrating the capabilities of the software.