Skype today started the first phase of the Skype Translator preview. The program kicks off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, plus over 40 instant messaging languages, available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page.
Microsoft says Skype Translator is a great example of the company’s investment in research. In this case, a decade of dedicating resources to the advancement of speech recognition, automatic translation, and machine learning technologies is finally paying off.
Because Skype Translator relies on machine learning, the more the technology is used, the more it improves. Skype is thus expecting the quality of the English and Spanish translation to continually advance as more people use the Skype Translator preview with these languages.
The company today also shared some details about how Skype Translator works in a blog post, along with an infographic. In a video, the team explains the testing process, including that it captures all audio snippets anonymously for analysis:
In a second video, Skype showed off two schools (Peterson School in Mexico City and Stafford Elementary School in Tacoma, USA) trying Skype Translator. The students play a game of Mystery Skype in which the children ask questions to determine the location of the other school.
While the company has used this game to promote the use of Skype in educational environments before, this time there is the added twist of a language barrier being removed:
Last month, Skype started letting users sign up for the preview. At the time, the company noted that the tool will initially only be available on Windows 8.1 computers and tablets, but today it said the Windows 10 Technical Preview would also be supported.
The signup page still lists the following 12 languages as choices for “Tell us what languages you’re interested in”: Arabic, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. The remaining 10 languages are thus the most likely potential candidates to be added to Skype Translator next.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Skype Corporate Vice President Gurdeep Singh Pall unveiled Skype Translator back in late May, promising to have a preview ready before the end of the year. The engineering team behind the project has working to get the technology ready ever since, and now it has finally delivered, with just over two weeks to spare.