The universal translator, a common device in science fiction literature. From Hitchhiker’s babel fish, Farscape’s alien bacteria injection to Star Trek’s communication badges and portable computers, the universal translator is the future, something in fantasy. Or is it?
“We’ve invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they’re emerging as important components in this more personal computing era.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.” – Microsoft’s Skype VP Gurdeep Singh Pal
Well Microsoft don’t seem to think so. The Seattle software giant, which purchased Skype in May 2011 for a whopping $8.5bn (£5.2bn), has just revealed a speech translation system capable of translating any language to any other in real-time and it has plans to integrate this technology into Skype.
Currently in the early stages of development, the new tool is called Skype Translator. It was during this weeks Code Conference in California that Microsoft’s Skype VP Gurdeep Singh Pal and communications manager Diana Heinrichs demoed the feature. Using the tool’s live speech translations capabilities, Pall was able to have a conversation in English while Pal spoke German.
Chief executive Satya Nadella said the firm would launch a test version of the service for Windows 8 later this year with other versions set to follow.
It’s not a surprising move for Microsoft as they attempt to push forward with communications technology following their purchase of Nokia and with Google hangouts and Apple Face-time now attracting many of Skype’s customers, there is a need to bring something new to the technology.
The technology has far reaching potential, from international business deals to tourism, imagine the benefits of being able to speak to anyone on the planet in your native tongue.
With Google being one of the major players in translation technology there is added pressure for Microsoft to get this technology released sooner rather than later as competition is likely to follow.
There was no mention from Microsoft as to whether the service would be offered for free or if the users will have to pay a fee.