Microsoft is working on a real-time translation feature for Skype, which is potentially a valuable resource for companies conducting business internationally.
On Tuesday, the company announced the update to Skype in a company blog post. Skype is a popular Web-based service which allows users to chat and conduct both voice and video calls for free. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella demonstrated the upcoming software update during an interview at the Recode Code Conference in Palos Verdes, California, where Nadella held a conversation with Skype chief executive Gurdeep Singh Pall, switching between German and English while Skype provided the translation in an automated voice.
The Redmond giant has dubbed the service Skype Translator, and is the result of a combination of Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, as well as neural network-based speech recognition software. Skype Translator currently supports over 40 languages and will be available as a Windows 8 beta app before the end of 2014.
According to Nadella, the software will eventually be available to consumers using all types of devices.
"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," said Gurdeep Pall, Corporate Vice President of Skype and Lync at Microsoft. "Skype Translator opens up so many possibilities to make meaningful connections in ways you never could before in education, diplomacy, multilingual families and in business."
Microsoft says that over 300 million people use Skype each month, and over two billion minutes of conversation are held every day. The service could prove to be useful for businesses working on an international level, as real-time translation may not remove the awkwardness of muddling through communication, but could at least make the gist of what we want known. As business transforms from the local to global, any tool that can be used to break down language barriers can only of value.