Microsoft's Translator app for Android has learned a new trick: offline translations.
Microsoft announced today that the app now supports offline language packs based on the company's research on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Currently, nine languages are available, namely Chinese (simplified), French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.
The offline translation tech solves a potentially pricey dilemma for avid travelers, according to the Translator team at Microsoft.
"Since we launched the Microsoft Translator app for Android last August, one of the key user requests was to support offline translations for situations where Internet access was unavailable or cost prohibitive, such as with international roaming," wrote the group in a Feb. 18 blog post. To bridge the sizable gap between cloud-scale translation services and the more modest computing and storage capabilities of smartphones, the Redmond, Wash., software maker turned to machine learning.
"We are pleased to introduce today the world's first Deep Neural Network-powered offline engine, available in the Microsoft Translator app for Android," continued the Translator team. "By downloading free offline packs, users can get near-online-quality translations, even when they are not connected to the Internet."
Microsoft has been using its Deep Neural Network technologies, also referred to as Deep Learning, to power the search engine's language translation capabilities in its Bing search engine and Skype's real-time translation feature for video and audio calls. Last month, the company announced that it had successfully completed its rollout of Skype Translator to all Windows users, which currently supports seven spoken languages (Chinese Mandarin, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish).
"By bringing this technology to offline translations on your mobile device, you will have access to the highest-quality offline translation provided. Our standard tests have shown that it is comparable to the translations you get when connected to the Internet, and significantly better than any offline translation experiences available previously," claimed Microsoft.
For iPhone users, Microsoft announced that the optical character recognition (OCR) image translation option, available for Windows and Windows Phone since 2010, is finally available for their Apple-branded smartphones.
"Rather than typing the text or speaking aloud, you can translate pictures from your phone with the translation appearing in an overlay above the existing text in the picture," stated the Translator team. "Translation from your camera roll is great for translating signs, menus, and flyers; and translation of saved images is perfect for images from emails, the Internet, and social media."
Though each side of the Android-iOS fence has different Translator app experience, Microsoft plans to even things out.
"These offline packs are being made available today on Android, and OCR capabilities only on iPhone. Soon we will add each of them to the other platform as well—to allow all of the apps (Android, iPhone and Windows) to translate offline and have image recognition/translation capabilities," the Translator team said.