Microsoft is announcing today that its Skype Translator feature of the Skype messaging, voice, and video-calling app is now capable of translating speech into and out of Russian. Now Skype Translator can be said to speak a total of nine languages. This comes after Arabic speech translation support arrived in March.
Skype Translator received lots of attention when Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella demonstrated it during Recode’s Code conference in 2014. The service relies on deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence that involves training artificial neural networks on lots of data (recordings of speech, in this case) and then making inferences about new data. After coming up with a few text candidates in the first language, the software chooses the top candidate, removes words like “um” and “ah,” translates the text based on previous translations, and provides a speech recording of the translated text. It gets better over time with user feedback, along with human transcriptions. (Google also uses deep learning for certain parts of Google Translate.)
“Russian is the eighth most popular spoken language in the world and our Russian-speaking customers around the world have always been particularly enthusiastic about Skype Translator,” the Skype team wrote in a blog post. “For months, we’ve received many requests to include Russian in Skype Translator’s audio language portfolio, and we are so excited to finally cross this milestone, opening up one of the most dialectically complex languages on earth to anyone with a Skype account.”
Skype Translator is still in preview and is only available for Windows. To turn on Skype Translator for Russian, click the globe button in the chat window with a given user, and you can select that language for both chat messages and spoken language.