Imagine traveling around the world without any language barrier. No confusing street signs or menus, no searching through pages to try to identify the word that has just been said and what it actually means.
Sounds like a dream, right? Well, this dream has now become reality. Microsoft recently announced the release of Skype Translator into beta testing. The Skype Translator gives individuals the ability to speak another language without the painstaking task of learning one. Within a Skype video or voice call simply begin to speak and the translator will automatically translate your words in (almost) real time.
Until now, real-time translation has been the material for sci-fi books and television shows (Star Trek anyone?) but latest technologies can now bring each of the 6500 spoken languages in the world right to our doorsteps. Microsoft has dedicated years of research to the development within the fields of speech recognition and machine learning, meaning the more the machine is used the smarter it becomes.
The Skype translator has the potential to drastically reform the way the world does business, allowing countries who don’t speak English the opportunity to trade and transact business without having to rely on translators for important information that can be lost in transit. The security and trust of a brand that most of us have used – like Skype – allows the world to move into the real-time translation world without reservation.
Imagine what you can learn from a culture across the globe when you can unite languages as one! In a phone call you can speak with the modern day equivalent of a pen pal even if English is your only language and Mandarin is their only language. Real-time translations have the power to affect personal lives across the world and effectively making it that much smaller. Travel the seven seas and continents without the fear of language as a disadvantage!
Although the program will only be starting out with two spoken languages – English and Spanish – it will feature more than 40 instant messaging languages to customers who have signed up for the service and also use Windows 8.1 on their device.
Microsoft recognizes the potential in education with their latest project and have beta tested the tool in two elementary schools. Skype Translator is used for games like ‘Mystery Skype’ where two schools give hints as to where they are geographically to determine their location. This same potential could largely benefit emergency responders and other humanitarian organizations who are currently hindered in their work through language barriers.
Skype’s preview blog posts outlines that the long-term goal for speech translation “is to translate as many languages as possible on as many platforms as possible and deliver the best Skype Translator experience on each individual platform for our more than 300 million connected users.”, But it also states that their journey to fulfilling this goal must include the users. Skype encourages you to be a part of of their progress by signing up and telling them what your language preferences are; you could even be chosen as a beta tester to work through all the kinks that accompany new software. To sign up visit Skype.com.
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