Microsoft is to incorporate near-real-time language translation to Skype, its audio and video calling software. The technology was unveiled in a demo at its inaugural Code Conference on Tuesday.
"Skype Translator results from decades of work by the industry, years of work by our researchers, and now is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams.
"The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition," wrote Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype and Lync at Microsoft, in a blog.
A beta version for Windows will be rolled out before the end of the year, which will initially support a handful of (probably European) languages, and will no doubt also be integrated into Microsoft Lync, when it comes out of beta.
The demonstration showed an English-German translation between Pall and a German-speaking Skye manager, Diana Heinrichs, in Europe.
It isn't the first time that Microsoft has demonstrated such translation capabilities. Two years ago, Microsoft Research founder Rick Rashid gave a speech in which Microsoft translation software machines translated his English into Chinese as he spoke.
However, one of the more peculiar aspects of the release was the admission by Pall, noted by tech site Recode, which was part of the launch, that Microsoft wants to use some of the billions of minutes spoken via Skype to refine the translation system.
"Pall noted that Skype handles more than three quarters of a trillion minutes of conversations annually. Even if a tiny fraction of people were willing to let Skype use their conversations, it would get more data than it needs or could even possibly process," it claimed.