Microsoft and Skype Translator- Will it Become True?

by Manuel Herranz
Today, organizations invest heavily in their research and development departments. This has led to new technological advancements being made in various fields to make our lives convenient.

Machine translation is one such technological milestone that has been achieved after years of research and experimentation. Machine translation, also known as automatic translation, is rapidly gaining popularity among professional translation companies and the general public and its importance has now begun to be realized by various schools of thought. Machine translation is software-based technology and can translate written text. Historically, it was based on rule-based (the relationship between one language and another). The advent of massive amounts of data and statistical systems capable of processing relationships between language pairs, created the possibility of building translation engines fast and efficiently. Hybrid systems take the best from both worlds.

So far, various organizations have shown interest in this new discovery of science and are focused on further developing the technology. Microsoft, for instance, have been researching on the subject of machine translation for more than ten years. Doing so, the researchers at Microsoft have made some incredible innovations in the field of machine translation, and are continuing to do so.

The research team at Microsoft was able to realize the importance of machine translation and how effective it can be in lowering language and communication barriers that hindered global communication.

The first productive results that the research team at Microsoft delivered were related to Microsoft’s product-support Knowledge Base. Later the technology was modified further and now can be accessed by millions all over the world, in the form Bing Translator, a hybrid approach to machine translation with re-training features, a kind of “DIY MT” in which Microsoft can make use of your data. They joined TAUS several years ago in an effort to obtain more data and accessing donors’ data proved valuable.

After the success of Bing Translator, the next challenging task for Microsoft was to introduce machine translation technology for speech. The job was even more intricate than developing software for text translation. In addition to taking into consideration various nuances among different languages, care also had to be taken in terms of speech pronunciation and utterances. The challenge was to develop machine translation software that is compatible with the pronunciation of various languages and can differentiate between voice utterances of a diversified group of people.

After thorough research, Microsoft research team was successful in designing software that provided solutions to most of the problems concerning machine translation of speech. Technology which is described as real time translation for Skype was for the first time unveiled at the Code technology conference. Microsoft also released a video showing the head of its Machine Translation R&D team Chris Wendt speaking in German and having his message translated into English and back into German (see the video here).

Chris Wendt Skype Translator

Chris Wendt using Skype Translator

The video shows a short, limited conversation. However, other examples involving Gurdeep Pall, Corporate Vice President of Skype, showed a conversation that was fairly understandable, although few anomalies were too obvious to be ignored. It appears that the technology still fails to completely comprehend the sentences before translating, and still needs to be worked on to produce more user friendly results.

However, it cannot be denied that the launch of machine based translation service for Skype is an effective and substantive technological milestone towards lowering communication barriers all over the world. Machine translation is a gaining popularity due to its diversified and time-efficient approach. It is becoming a utility that we expect to find embedded in products and services, at the press of a button.

The translation service for Skype now can be accessed by the masses and have over 300 million active users all over the world. As the effectiveness and usefulness of Skype translator has been realized by many in carrying out business transactions, it appears that in the coming years this technology is going to see a tremendous increase in its users. In fact, Microsoft has already taken the initiative to carry out further research on the subject of machine translation to make the technology more convenient for its users.

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