Microsoft wants to make it easier for multilingual audiences and the hearing impaired to follow along with PowerPoint presentations.
Microsoft Garage, the software giant's experimental app unit, released Presentation Translator this week, an Office add-in for the Windows version of PowerPoint that provides real-time translation services. The software is powered by Microsoft Translator and the company's Cognitive Services slate, a collection of AI-enabled APIs.
During a presentation, the software turns spoken content into live subtitles featuring any one of the 60-plus supported text languages, similar to Skype's real-time translation feature. Ten spoken languages are supported, including Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
After installing and configuring the add-in, it will generate a QR code or five-letter conversation code in the first slide, which audience members can use to follow a presentation in their own language and on their iOS or Android devices using the Microsoft Translator app.
Up to 500 audience members can follow along and participate in multilingual Q&A sessions. Presentation Translator can also be used to translate text that appears within PowerPoint slides while preserving its original formatting, according to Microsoft.
A YouTube video guide on getting started with Presentation Translator is available here.
Microsoft isn't the only tech titan that's using technology to address language barriers. Last November, Google announced an AI upgrade to its Translate service. Using the company's Neural Machine Translation technology, the company now provides more accurate and natural-sounding translations for several languages, including Chinese, English, French, German and Spanish, among others.
"At a high level, the Neural system translates whole sentences at a time, rather than just piece by piece. It uses this broader context to help it figure out the most relevant translation, which it then rearranges and adjusts to be more like a human speaking with proper grammar," Barak Turovsky, product lead at Google Translate, in a blog post. "Since it's easier to understand each sentence, translated paragraphs and articles are a lot smoother and easier to read."
Google has also incorporated the technology into its Chrome browser, enabling richer, full-page translations for select language pairs. More than 20 neural machine translation languages are now available on the popular web browser.
Apple's upcoming iOS 11 update for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch turns Siri, the company's virtual assistant, into a translator. "Ask Siri in English how to say something in Chinese, Spanish, French, German, or Italian, and Siri will translate the phrase," states this Apple webpage dedicated to the mobile operating system update. The translation service requires users to set Siri's language to English, according to Apple.
IBM's Bluemix cloud platform is home to the Watson-powered Language Translator services. Among the translation models supported are conversations, news and patents, the latter of which can be used to translate patent filings from Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese to English.