Earlier this evening Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., in talk during the Code Conference, unveiled an early look at the Skype Translator app. This app represents a breakthrough in language translation jointly developed by Microsoft researchers and Skype engineers, bridging geographic and language barriers through the use of real-time speech-to-speech translation. The functionality combines Skype voice and instant messaging, Microsoft Translator and machine-learning based technologies for speech recognition that are used in Windows and Windows Phone Translation applications today.
During Nadella’s conversation with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg of the Re/code tech website relating to a new era of personal computing, he asked Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Lync and Skype, to join him on stage. While on stage, Pall demonstrated for the first time publicly the Skype Translator app, with Pall conversing in English with German-speaking Microsoft employee Diana Heinrichs.
Watch the Demo
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Speech has been a natural evolution of the translation work that Microsoft has been delivering to consumers and businesses across a broad number of products and solutions. The work represents over a decade of work within Microsoft Research that has become a reality through a series of remarkable research advances in translation, speech recognition, and language processing. This demonstration is the next step in delivering the real time speech translation experience to users that Rick Rashid, then the worldwide head of Microsoft Research, demonstrated a year and a half ago.
The Skype Translator app will available first on Windows 8 later this year as a limited beta.
It has been an exciting day as we unveil this remarkable technology advancement that brings people one step closer to removing barriers of communication regardless of language or location!
Learn More about Skype Translator
The following is a guest post by the Microsoft Translator Partner, Lionbridge Technologies, who developed GeoFluent as solution to address the challenge of real-time translation of user generated content leveraging the Microsoft Translator automatic translation service and customization capabilities of the Translator Hub.
It’s the middle of the night in China, and you are still at the office, working on a complex installation that needs to be up and running by the time the boss comes in the next day. There is no room for error, and the pressure is on.
All of the sudden, a server malfunctions, and you realize your big project has stalled, and progress has come to a halt. What do you do?
Your first lifeline is the vendor’s “Contact Us” button on their website. A chat window opens up immediately with customer support on the other end. An agent works through the issue with you online, and suddenly the project is back underway. You breathe a deep sigh of relief.
What you don’t know is that the customer support agent only speaks English and was seamlessly interacting with you, even though your native language is Chinese. The communication was so seamless you weren’t even aware that a language gap existed. Somehow, it just worked. What you did know, however, is that, had immediate assistance from customer support not been available, you would likely be looking for a new vendor for future business.
The lesson learned is simple. Today’s business demands that companies of all types need to be able to respond and support their global customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That means that customer service personnel must be able to provide that support to customers regardless of their native language and time zone.
The challenge with that type of customer service and support is that neither native speakers or human translation are viable solution, both from a cost, response-time and scalability standpoint. Can machine translation solve this problem effectively?
As experts in translation and localization services, we at Lionbridge understood that while automatic translation provided the immediacy necessary to keep up with the translation demands of user-generated content, business clients demanded more. Translations had to at least be actionable and understandable even if they weren’t perfect.
The list of challenges that needed to be addressed to make automatic translation valid for these customer support scenarios were numerous. Some of the biggest hurdles included:
For this reason, we developed GeoFluent, a real-time automated translation solution designed to meet the needs of business clients in a scalable and cost effective manner. Building on Microsoft Translator as the underlying automatic translation service, GeoFluent provides an additional configuration layer that enables real-time conversations and content sharing with users who speak, read and write different languages. It is easily integrated into customer’s existingchat and community applications.
We took these above mentioned challenges into account when developing GeoFluent. This SaaS-based application delivers the features that businesses require, including:
A successful machine translation experience must be seamless, actionable, and timely. GeoFluent makes this makes this possible for the demanding needs of customer service organizations to support a global customer base.
To learn more about how GeoFluent solutions are leveraging Microsoft Translator, go to:
GeoFluent Partner Page
By Greg Belkin
Director, Product Marketing