The popular Skype messaging system is offering an interesting new feature: real-time translation for mobile, voice, and instant messaging.
Skype is the voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) system of choice for millions of online users. Now that Skype can translate voice calls their experience is significantly improved. Real-time translation support is offered for nine spoken languages, which include English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian. The service also supports instant messaging translation for a whopping 50 different languages.
Translate Voice Calls in Real Time with Skype
Skype’s translation features have been available for Skype-to-Skype calls since 2014, but now users will be able to use the feature in mobile and landline calls.
The new translation feature isn’t available for everyone, though. To use it, one needs the latest Skype beta, some Skype credits, and they must be signed up for the Windows Insider Program.
The translation will be available via a switch that appears when a call is made. When the switch is pressed, and a language is selected, the recipient of the call will be played a message that the call is being recorded and translated. The call suffers from short delays, but only so the conversation can be translated.
For users, the technology works like assisted telephone support for the deaf, where a third party listens into the call to type the communications for the party that cannot hear the phone. The new Skype feature is different than assistive phone devices, however, because the third party providing the translation isn’t a person, but an AI.
One Step Closer to a Sci-Fi Reality
Currently the service is prone to some errors, but the AI that powers it uses deep learning neural networks. To better translate voice calls, the AI learns and improves its methods as it is used by millions of people. Eventually, the translator should provide more and more flawless communications between differing languages. Eventually, more languages will be added to the list.
This is a huge move for the business world, where Skype is often used in lieu of a conference room. Now, when companies are making international moves, they have a tool that may allow them to conference without having to hire translators.
The modern age is one of technological marvels, the inspiration of which seem to be derived straight from science fiction. The idea of a universal translator was made famous by shows like Star Trek and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Skype works toward making that fantasy a reality.
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