Today, Microsoft announced the first phase of the Skype Translator preview program which provides real-time language translation using a voice synthesizer. The preview program will kick-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device.
Skype Translator was demonstrated between two elementary school classes—one in Washington and one in Mexico City. “Mystery Classroom” allowed the students guess where their school was located and discover the potential to break down language barriers and bring people together. Skype was acquired by Microsoft for $8.5 billion three years ago.
Skype Translator relies on machine learning, which means that the more the technology is used, the smarter it gets.
The training data for speech recognition and machine translation comes from a variety of sources, including translated web pages, videos with captions, as well as previously translated and transcribed one-on-one conversations. Microsoft says the advent of Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) for speech recognition, pioneered by Microsoft Research, dramatically reduced error rates and improved robustness, finally enabling the use of this technology in broad contexts such as Skype Translator.