Microsoft has announced that its Skype Translator tool is now available for anybody to download, offering real-time English-Spanish translation over video calls. A further 40 languages are included for Skype instant messaging.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled Skype Translator in May, explaining that it was the product of 15 years' research and takes advantage of advanced machine learning capabilities.
"The one fascinating feature of this is something called transfer learning. What happens is you teach it English and it learns English. Then you teach it Mandarin, and it learns Mandarin, but it becomes better at English," he said.
"Then you teach it Spanish, and it gets good at Spanish but gets great at both Mandarin and English. Quite frankly none of us knows exactly why. It's magic."
Announcing the wider availability of the Translator tool, Skype corporate vice president Gurdeep Pall said in a blog post that, as more people begin using the tool, Microsoft will be able to release more real-time language translations.
"We are starting with English and Spanish and, as more people use the Skype Translator preview with these languages, the quality will continually improve," he said.
"We also need your help to expedite new language releases. So make sure you sign up, let your language preferences be known and get involved.
"Our long-term goal for speech translation is to translate as many languages as possible on as many platforms as possible and deliver the best Skype Translator experience on each individual platform for our more than 300 million connected users."
The business benefits of such a tool are clear and Microsoft will hope that it has a substantial head start. This could prove a major differentiator as video calling becomes more commonplace and awareness and demand for such services rise.
A video below shows the tool being used by school children in Mexico and the US to communicate.
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