The Bing Translator App for Windows now accepts speech input, bringing one of the standout features of its Windows Phone 8 counterpart to Windows 8/RT devices.
Microsoft's Bing Translator Team announced the voice-enabled update in a Jan. 14 blog post. "The recent release update for the Translator app for Windows now delivers the same speech-to-speech functionality offered in the Bing Translator app for Windows Phone 8," said the group.
Bing Translator translates text into more than 40 languages and features text-to-speech capabilities. It can also translate text from other Windows Store apps via the operating system's Share charm.
Translator now enables users to "leverage the power of speech-to-speech translations from any Windows device." A boon for travelers, Microsoft boasts that users can use the app's microphone feature to simply speak into their Windows 8 devices to ask for directions or place orders. The Translator app, in turn, will provide "translated words in a native speaker's accent."
"Whether on your Windows Phone or any Windows device, the Translator app is the perfect travel companion to help overcome language barriers, even when there’s no Internet connection," the company said.
The free app also includes a new tweak to its camera-based, visual translation feature: portrait and landscape mode. "Simply point your camera, scan and translate printed language using your tablet or PC to create subtitles for everyday life," stated the company.
Users of the Bing Translator app for Windows Phone 8 also get an updated experience. Microsoft announced that the mobile version of the app includes "improvements to the speech functionality for better quality and responsiveness of translations," as well as "a redesigned user interface" for offline language packs. Offline packs, as the term suggests, keep the app's translation services active in areas of little or no wireless connectivity and help travelers "avoid expensive data roaming charges," according to the company.
The Translator app exemplifies Microsoft's efforts to evolve the search technology into a pillar of the software giant's software, services and devices portfolio. In the wake of Bing's big revamp in September, Lawrence Ripsher, general manager of user experiences for Bing, said in a statement that Bing is an "important service layer for Microsoft, and we wanted to create a new brand identity to reflect Bing's company-wide role."
Although lagging behind Google in terms of adoption, Bing continues to wend its way into the lives of an increasing number of consumers. The technology displaced Google as the default search engine for Siri, Apple's virtual assistant, in iOS 7. Bing also provides the search and media discovery features for the company's new Xbox One "all-in-one" video game and entertainment console, which has sold 3 million units to date.
Bing will also help power Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Siri. Named after an artificial intelligence construct that appears in the popular Halo series of video games, Cortana will derive its smarts from Satori, the context-aware technology that powers Bing Snapshot.