It may not be at a Douglas Adams level Bablefish as yet, but Microsoft is about to take a step into the future by offering real time speech translation in Skype.
The new feature, which is said to first appear late this year via a Windows 8 beta app, will allow you to speak to someone in a different language with what you are saying translated on the fly.
Microsoft has suggested this may be coming for some time, with the company announcing in 2013 that it was working on the project, based on ten years of research, including the algorithms that have been used in Bing translate.
The new announcement is that fiction will become reality.
The working demo was demonstrated in an interview on Re/Code; with the company posting to the Microsoft Research blog:
“We felt speech translation was a very natural evolution of the text-translation work we’ve been doing,” says Chris Wendt, program manager of the Machine Translation team, who had long been pushing for such an incubation effort.
“It’s an exciting project,” he says, “and it became clear that adding this capability to Skype and enabling people to have translated conversations was the killer scenario to get this technology into customers’ hands.”
There’s no timing other than a Windows 8 release late this year, but it’s quite possible that the technology could be rolled out across Skype, and even other products in 2015/2016.
If you’re interested in the technical details, read the full Microsoft Research blog post here.