Skype Translator, Microsoft's real-time voice translation technology, is being integrated into the Skype for Windows client, the software giant announced today.
First unveiled last year during a technology demo and released in December as a preview app, Skype Translator enables users to participate in voice-, video- or text-based conversations with speakers of other languages. Skype Translator is powered by Microsoft's cloud and machine-learning technology based on the software giant's neural net research.
The software employs automatic speech recognition, speech correction, language translation and text-to-speech to generate spoken and/or text translations on the fly. Currently, Skype Translator supports six voice languages, English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish. On the messaging front, the technology supports 50 languages.
In a FAQ, Microsoft boasts that Skype Translator covers "more than 95 percent of the languages that cover more than 95 percent of worldwide gross domestic product (GDP)." Fans of the Star Trek TV shows and feature films can also try their hands at Klingon.
"Now, you have even more reasons to chat with people around the world—bringing together family, friends, and students," stated Microsoft in an Oct. 1 announcement. "This opens up a whole new world of possibilities to do even more together across not only distances, but also languages."
Starting today, Microsoft is rolling out the new feature as part of an update to the Skype desktop application for Windows. After the update is applied, new Translator icons will appear alongside the familiar voice- and video-calling buttons.
As more users take the tech for a spin—potentially millions of people, according to Microsoft—the quality of the translations will improve.
"Built on world-class machine learning technology that gets smarter with usage, Skype Translator preview gets better the more it's used," wrote the company's bloggers. "Already, early users of the preview have helped it improve tremendously, and now with this broader release we are excited to see the additional progress we can make from expanded use."
Microsoft isn't the only IT heavyweight seeking to improve communications between speakers of different languages.
This summer, Google launched the new Translate Community, which takes a crowdsourced approach to improving Google Translate, the online search company's online translation service. "Google Translate helps billions of people communicate and learn new languages, but it could always use a little help," stated Sveta Kelman, the program manager for Google Translate, in a blog post.
Google's Translate Community will rely on users' personal mastery of the languages they use in their day-to-day lives. The aim is to refine the quality of translations provided by the company services, including Search, Docs, YouTube, Maps and Gmail.
"Luckily, there are a lot of multi-lingual people around the world who have offered to pitch in. We've just launched a new Translate Community where language enthusiasts can help us improve translation quality for the 80 languages we support, as well as help us in launching new languages," Kelman added.