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Skype Translator to break language barriers in web cam talks

Published time: June 02, 2014 20:35
AFP Photo / Jonathan Nackstrand

AFP Photo / Jonathan Nackstrand

Conversations on Skype will soon break one of the last remaining barriers, Microsoft promises, as a new generation translator will be handling everything that users type or utter.

The new feature was demonstrated at the inaugural Re/code’s Code Conference at Ranchos Palos Verdes in California, an important conference for the digital industry.

Gurdeep Pall, vice president of the Skype application, had a chat with his colleague, Diana Heinrichs, in Germany on a video call. Heinrichs spoke in German, while Pall responded in English. The conversation was not a basic one and included street names and neighborhoods in London, where Pall is planning to move.

“It is early days for this technology, but the ‘Star Trek’ vision for a Universal Translator isn’t a galaxy away. Skype translator opens up so many possibilities to make meaningful connections in ways you never could before in education, diplomacy, multilingual families and in business,” said Pall in a blog post.

Skype Translator has been in development for around 15 years and is expected to support 40 languages when it is released. Google and Apple are expected to introduce similar technology of their own.

Much like the human brain, the program has the ability to learn what is known as transfer learning.

“Say you teach it English. It learns English, then you teach it Mandarin. It learns Mandarin, but it becomes better at English. And 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,” he said.

The feature will first become available on the Windows 8 beta application at the end of the year. Microsoft bought Skype, which has over 300 million users, in 2011.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is even more upbeat about the possibilities of the new technology.

“It is going to make sure you can communicate with anybody without language barriers. In fact it’s the most human of things,” he said at the conference.

Comments (11)


Joel Lundborg 06.06.2014 15:28

Magnus Scherr 03.06.2014 01:18

The English-German Translation is at least to say inferior. Syntax is not right Words get mixed up and so on. Loads of improvement but good for the beginning. Portable Solution would be great.


Of course. The only reason the results ended up being as good as they are, is because both the source and target language is Germanic.

I f it translated between say English/French the results would be worse. Translate between English/Japanese and the results would be godawful.

S peech recognition + machine translation. Innovative, not.


Peter 03.06.2014 05:17

I am German and whenever I translate a text into any other language it is always wrong if the source language is the German one. In this video the translation was as well a bit poor, wrong syntax and sometimes words. I hope they can improve that.
I always translate any text from English into another language, that works pretty good.


Mr. Deaver 03.06.2014 04:11

Keith Bosthen 02.06.2014 21:44

The only reason why Skype is so popular is because MSN messenger is no more. And they dont have a competitor.


Try VSEE. Low bandwidth requirements and wseems to be very stable.

View all comments (11)
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