For years Skype has been breaking down geographical barriers, allowing us to communicate all over the world for free and to keep in touch with friends and family. What Skype has now launched I have to say is pretty impressive!
Yesterday, Skype showed off a preview of a new tool that provides automated translation during video calls, making it possible for two people to communicate even without sharing a common language. Basically, if you met someone from Salamanca during your Erasmus days, but never managed to communicate, now you can just sit back, relax and keep on talking using your native language – the tool will nearly simultaneously convert your words and you will also get a transcript of your conversation as you speak.
The preview program has English and Spanish as the two languages currently available for near real-time spoken translation; however, over forty languages are supported for instant messaging and Skype engineers are looking to expand it to more. Those who are interested in seeing their language translated can sign up here.
To show off the program, Skype asked two schools – one in the USA and the other one in Mexico – to try Skype Translator. The English-speaking and the Spanish-speaking children had to ask each other some questions to find out the location of the other school. You can check the results in the video below.
The bad point is that this new technology is only available for those who use a Windows 8.1 device. On top of that, it’s difficult to say whether it could be really useful in everyday life conversations or be effective for negotiations, beyond a simple question-and-answer communicative purpose.
Nonetheless, the technology behind this tool involves machine learning, therefore the more often it hears a word in conversation, the better it will become at translating it, which means that it can only get better as time passes.
Skype Translator is both the result of the effort to break language barriers together with geographical ones, and yet another incredible step towards the replacement of human translation. What do you think? How useful do you think this tool could be? Would it lead to an enhancement or an oversimplification of the way we speak?