Skype Translator Tool Gives Glimpse Of The Future

Technology28 May 20142.6k

Communicating with anybody without language barriers is the end goal of all global brands.

Firms will spend vast amounts of money on marketing their products and services in different countries, and as part of this they need to localize their materials in order to factor in cultural and linguistic nuances.

Microsoft has introduced a new development through its Skype voice over internet protocol service that could add to the existing suite of tools. 

Instant translation

Currently called Skype Translator, it is the test version of a real-time, spoken-word translation service that will allow people to hear a foreign speaker's words in their native language.

It will be launched for Windows 8 later this year, although pricing details have yet to be released. Skype currently has around 300 million monthly users and so the potential – and the implications – of this new tool could be far reaching. 

Microsoft's chief executive officer Satya Nadella unveiled Skype Translator at the Code Conference technology gathering in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and he was keen to stress it is still just a research project. 

He admitted the technology being used is "magical" and it is part of Mr Nadella's attempts to re-establish the company as a technology leader, after falling behind companies such as Apple and Google. 

A big leap forward

Rick Rashid, Microsoft's chief research officer, revealed in November 2012 that a combined study by Microsoft Research and the University of Toronto had been able to reduce the error rate in speech recognition by over 30 per cent, which represented a massive leap forward in terms of reliability.

This was achieved through Deep Neural Networks, a technique patterned after human brain behavior that allowed researchers to "train more discriminative and better speech recognizers than previous methods", Mr Rashid stated. 

Skype corporate vice president Grudeep Pall was adamant about its potential. "It is early days for this technology, but the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator isn't a galaxy away, and its potential is every bit as exciting as those Star Trek examples."

He added Skype has been investing in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade as it seeks to keep pace with the move towards offering a more personal computing era.

The power of translation 

It comes shortly after Twitter introduced language targeting, which will enable brands to produce language-specific content, as Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts can now appear in languages that their audience speaks.

The service is going to be available in 20 languages initially through its Ads API, while language-specific analytics are also being provided so brands can properly track their progress.

Of course, the best way to effectively communicate with a series of different target audiences is still to employ a specialist localization agency, as they will have the experience and know-how to make sure a project is completed without any hitches.

They will also be able to advise on the best way to localize content across a range of different mediums. 

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