Microsoft releases preview of realtime translation software Skype Translate

Microsoft today released a test version of Skype Translator, a tool for realtime translation of video calls. The company released the software after it started the preview program last month. The American company announced the release of Skype translator on the Skype Blog. So far the tool only supports spoken English and Spanish but Microsoft promises that more languages will follow. Besides the two spoken languages, Skype Translator can also translate more than 40 written  languages.

Microsoft announced Skype Translator in May this year when the company also demonstrated how two employees were talking to each other in German and English. The software translated the words it “heard” to another language which was then pronounced by the software. A month ago Microsoft started a closed preview program.

Recently Microsoft successfully carried out an experiment where students of two schools, one in the United States and one in Mexico talked to each other in respectively English and Spanish. The American company made the students talk to each other while the students didn’t know to whom they were speaking and where their other party came from.

Skype Translator uses machine learning which means the software uses the spoken and written input of users to “understand” a language. Microsoft claims that spoken English and Spanish will improve over time as the software is used more frequently. The company is investigating which languages will be supported next based on user feedback.

Not everyone can use Skype Translator, the tool currently only works on Windows 8.1 devices, however Microsoft claims it wants to support as many languages as possible and on as many platforms as possible.

Skype Translator is Microsoft’s most recent attempt to make real time translation mainstream. For years companies tried to be successful with similar systems, Cisco also tested videoconference software with similar functionality and Google worked on a feature to translate phone conversations in real time.