It sounds like the stuff of Star Trek. A way to speak to anybody, whatever their language, with your words translated for you in real time.
You speak in English, they listen in Spanish. They say ‘Hola‘, you hear ‘Hello’.
This is a groundbreaking new development for Microsoft’s Skype video calling software – the culmination of more than ten years of research and investment. As Microsoft spokesperson Gurdeep Pall put it, “Skype Translator will open up endless possibilities for people around the world to connect, communicate and collaborate. People will no longer be hindered by geography and language.”*
To trial the new technology, Microsoft set up a Skype call between schoolchildren from Washington and Mexico City. Pupils asked each other questions as part of a game to find out which part of the world the other school was in – with the questions and responses translated instantly into the listener’s language. It worked smoothly and intuitively, boding well for the future of Skype Translator.
The real-time audio translation service is currently available in English and Spanish, while you can also use Skype instant messaging and have your text translated on-the-fly into any of 40 languages. But as Microsoft claims that some 300 million people use Skype each month, talking for more than 2 billion minutes each day, it’s no surprise that there are plans to introduce the audio translation service in many more languages. And as more people start to use it and the software is refined, Skype Translator is only going to become more impressive.
Already, it’s left us speechless.