Skype unveils real-time translation feature

Instant translation

Microsoft has unveiled a new real-time translation feature for Skype calls.

Announced in a Microsoft blog post yesterday, Skype Translator will use speech recognition to instantly translate a conversation between two people speaking different languages.

The feature was demonstrated onstage at the Code tech conference in California yesterday, by new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype and Lync (Microsoft's video conferencing and instant messaging service for businesses).

Pall was able to hold a conversation with a German-speaking Skype manager, with the software translating his words into German and playing them back in an automated voice. Text of the speech-recognised words and translation also appeared on the screen (pictured).

Skype Translator is set to launch in beta for Windows 8 before the end of 2014 - it has not been revealed whether the service will be free.

Cross-border communication

Pall said of the technology:

"Imagine in the very near future technology allowing humans to bridge geographic and language boundaries to connect mind to mind and heart to heart in ways never before possible. [...] 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. "

Launched in 2003, today Skype has 300 million monthly users across the world. It was purchased by Microsoft for $8.5bn (£5.2bn) in May 2011. The instant translation feature was then first showcased around 18 months ago in China, the result of more than a decade of research and investment.

Kleon West, business development director at theEword, commented: "An accurate, real-time translation service will be a real breakthrough for Skype as it has so many international users; it could be a great tool for international business relationships. However as Microsoft says, it is early days for the technology, and it will be interesting to see which languages it supports when it first launches."