Skype is great for mostly video calls but that has been limited to people speaking the same language. So the brilliant minds at Skype thought, ‘Hey, why can’t we have people who don’t speak the same language still talk?’ and thus created the translator tool.
Right now it’s still in test mode but it allows Spanish speaking people have their conversations translated to English, and vice versa, in real time. It has been tested already in some countries and is now only available for English and Spanish but they will roll out more languages in time.
According to the Skype blog ‘Skype Translator is the result of decades of research in speech recognition, automated translation, and general machine learning technologies, combined with an intense focus on the user experience’.
The translation is not limited to voice. Text messages sent over the app can also be translated into more than 40 languages at the moment.
There will be issues with speech and accent recognition in the beginning obviously but with time the app learns to recognise its user’s speech patterns. Skype explained this stating that the Skype Translator’s machine learning protocols train and optimize speech recognition (SR) and automatic machine translation (MT) tasks, acting as the glue that holds these elements together. This “glue” transforms the recognized text to facilitate translation. This process includes the removal of disfluencies (i.e. ‘ahs’ and ‘umms’ as well as re-phrasings), division of the text into sentences, as well as addition of punctuation and capitalization.
What Skype did to help this process was to input data from various sources, different speech types and sounds, to help the users when they opt to translate. The machine saves this information and can automatically detect what words the user says in order to translate them.
They are using the same system that Bing Translator uses in terms of their model, but the Skype one has been specifically modeled for conversational use. There is also a bot that acts as an eavesdropper, don’t worry it doesn’t mean someone else is listening to your conversation, but it sends the message/speech to the translator, then sends back the reply form the person you’re talking to, also in translated form.
Language barriers are hard to overcome but with many more people signing up and using it, the data base will grow and the translator will become smarter. Thus the chances of mistakes being made in translating messages or speech will be highly reduced. You can sign up for Skype Translator here.
Image Credits: Skype Blog