Skype users can now add Russian to the list of languages the software's real-time translation service can interpret for them.
"Russian is the eighth most popular spoken language in the world and our Russian-speaking customers around the world have always been particularly enthusiastic about Skype Translator," announced Microsoft in an Oct. 11 blog post. "For months, we've received many requests to include Russian in Skype Translator's audio language portfolio and we are excited to finally cross this milestone, opening up one of the most dialectically complex languages on earth to anyone with a Skype account."
For those keeping count, Skype can now translate a total of nine spoken languages while its users conduct voice or video calls. So far, it can provide translations voiced by a computer and displayed by on-screen text between the following languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian and Arabic. The latter, said Microsoft today, also joins the over 50 languages supported by Skype's text-to-text translation capabilities.
Microsoft first debuted the Skype Translator feature in 2014 to showcase the company's progress in adapting its machine learning research into a commercial product. The first demo involved a real-time conversation between English and German speakers, but by the time the company allowed the general public to take the technology for a spin later that same year, Microsoft settled on English and Spanish as the first language pair.
The company finally began rolling out Skype Translator to millions of Windows users a year ago, complete with support for six spoken languages. Last December, the company ported the technology to its iOS and Android apps to help facilitate in-person conversations.
For Microsoft, Skype not only serves a conduit between different cultures, but also between rival business cloud platforms. Late last month, the company announced the beta availability of a new Skype for Salesforce integration, enabling users of the cloud customer relationship management (CRM) software to initiate video and audio calls without having to switch applications.
"Skype for Salesforce surfaces the capabilities of Skype for Business Online directly within Salesforce to give sellers the ability to communicate in real time with colleagues straight from the Salesforce Lightning Experience," stated the company in a Sept. 29 announcement. Lightning is the interface design introduced by Salesforce last year. The feature is for customers with Salesforce Enterprise or Unlimited Edition plans and select Skype for Business Online accounts.
In addition to breaking language barriers and helping colleagues connect, Skype is also providing users with some of the earliest chatbot experiences from Microsoft and its partners, its ill-fated Tay chatbot notwithstanding.
Currently, users can select from several Skype chatbots, including Bing News, Hipmunk, Foursquare and IFTTT ("If This Then That"), among others. Eventually, Microsoft hopes that Skype bots, along with other artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted technologies like Cortana, will help usher in a "conversations as a platform" era in which users can speak into their devices using natural-language queries and commands to enhance their personal and professional productivity.