Microsoft Skype Translator Tech Arrives on Android, iOS

Spoken translations come to the updated Microsoft Translator apps for Android handsets, iPhones and connected smartwatches.

Microsoft Translator on iOS, Android

Windows users have enjoyed Skype Translator since October. Now the same technology that enables users to conduct online conversations between a handful of languages is available on iOS and Android, courtesy of the newly updated Microsoft Translator apps for those mobile platforms.

"The new conversation feature uses the same Microsoft Translator translation engine that powers Skype Translator, bringing our advanced machine learning know-how and speech recognition systems to assist you to converse in-person," said the Microsoft Translator group in a Dec. 17 announcement. "The feature supports translation to and from Chinese Mandarin, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish."

Microsoft first debuted the real-time translation tech last year during a demonstration at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. It enables users to carry on cross-language video conversations by simply speaking in their native tongue. Skype Translator delivers translations in real time using both a synthesized voice and on-screen text.

In Microsoft Translator for Android and iOS, the technology is geared toward in-person conversations. "We worked on making the feature work well if you have just your phone with the app installed," said Microsoft. "However, it shines when you have two smart devices: your phone and your watch."

By linking an Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatch, users can carry on a conversation without crowding over a smartphone.

"It allows you to have a more comfortable and fluid translated conversation," stated the Microsoft Translator group. "Instead of two people having to bend over your phone, passing it back and forth, being far from the microphone (and picking up background noise), or being at an uncomfortably close distance with each other, you can now face each other more naturally and at a more comfortable distance, while talking to each other in your own language."

Microsoft isn't the only technology giant bringing its translation tech to wearables.

In August, Google announced it was making Google Translate available on all smartwatches running Android Wear. "Translate is built into the latest Android Wear software update, so you can have bilingual conversations even if you don't have Google Translate on your phone, or if you're away from your phone but connected via WiFi," wrote Barak Turovsky, product lead for Google Translate, and Nathan Beach, product manager for Android Wear at Google, in an Aug. 20 blog post.

All it takes is a couple turns of the wrist to break the language barrier.

Users need only to speak into their watches and flip their wrists to display the text translation on the watch's face. "When they respond in their own language, flip your wrist back, and you'll see in your language what they've just said," said Turovsky and Beach. "Google Translate will automatically recognize which of the two languages is being spoken, so once you tap to start the conversation, all you and your buddy need to do is keep talking naturally."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...