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article imageSkype Translate now available for everyone

By Daniel Woods     May 13, 2015 in Technology
After being launched last year on an invite only basis Skype Translate is now freely accessible, and could be a template for future business and personal communications
Skype has made available to all its first iteration of translation software, which compliments the hugely popular communication service. With 300 million monthly active users around the world it could be a portent of how we interact digitally in the future.
The service provides near real–time live translation for users.It was initially launched on an invite only basis in December 2014, but anyone running Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 Preview PC or tablets can now download Skype Translator from the Windows Store.
The live spoken translation only functions with four languages — English, Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin — but Instant Messaging text translation supports 50 languages. However Skype has not yet revealed when the app will be compatible with Windows Phones.
Skype Translate represents a unification of various technologies that have hitherto been separate — speech recognition, automated translation, speech synthesis and machine learning. Microsoft embarked upon a “machine translation” research group 15 years ago, a branch of machine learning based on algorithms that model high level abstractions. The output translation is then articulated through computer generated speech synthesis.
The application has been seen as indicative of a fresh approach from new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, in trying to take more of the technology pioneered in R&D labs to market.
The Translator project has also led to a very intriguing and unexpected development - transfer learning. Nadella said “If you teach it English, it learns English. Then you teach it Mandarin, it learns Mandarin, but it becomes better at English. Then you teach it Spanish it’ll get good at Spanish, but it’ll get great at both Mandarin and English, and quite frankly none of us know exactly why.”
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