As Skype grows more global and gets used for more professional interactions and educational opportunities, translation has become a bit of an issue. Skype’s solution to that problem is suitably ambitious: A Skype Translator program that offers real-time translation of conversations through the Skype program.
Early users are already testing out the program, which translates both spoken and typed languages for all members of a Skype conversation. Currently the project supports around 40 languages for real-time text chatting and English/Spanish voice translation, but if and when Skype expands the Translator to all users, it may well add new languages (an English/German prototype has been displayed in the past).
If you want to get a taste of this program, you can access it from Windows 8.1 or early copies of Windows 10…or you could be some of the lucky school kids in U.S./Mexico classrooms who are participating in test conversations for the new feature, which is highly education oriented.
Microsoft has a useful YouTube video out showing how the Skype translator works in action. Essentially, the app recognizes spoken words and translates them into text. The text is then read by software and changed to audible, if stilted, speech by a computer voice. You can glance at the text itself or listen to the digital reading, depending on how well the conversation is going.
Connection speed and clarity of voice are both particularly important when it comes to real-time translation, so it’s no surprise Skype Translator is spending quite a while in beta mode. And, as Star Trek fans well know, even the universal translator has trouble interpreting every language accurately. Even so, the Skype project is an exiting step forward, and could push the popular app even further into the business world if it’s successful.