Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella, just steered the company into exciting and relatively uncharted territory: near real-time speech-to-speech translation.
"It’s been a dream of humanity ever since we started to speak and we wanted to cross the language boundary," said Nadella.
Speaking at Re/Code's inaugural Code Conference (formerly the "D Conference") in Southern California, Nadella and Skype Corporate VP Gurdeep Singh Pall made a Skype call to a non-English-speaking German friend. Then both parties spoke to and understood each other thanks to the live translation capabilities of the Skype Translator pre-beta.
"No one else does this," Pall told me, adding, "It's the first time something like this has been attempted." And it’s probably something we need.
English is not the most commonly spoken language in the world. By some estimates, it's third behind Chinese (and all its variants) and Hindi. However, our increasingly globalized society all but demands that we find a way to communicate across language barriers. Skype already, by Microsoft’s measure, boasts more than 300 million active members and handles roughly one third of international call traffic. Imagine what it could do with built-in voice translation.
Microsoft is not new to the speech recognition game. You'll find the same technology in the recently launched Cortana personal assistant in Windows Phone 8.1 and in the speech recognition that been live on Xbox 360, and now Xbox One, for over a year. Skype Translator, which comes out of Microsoft Research, is actually three technologies: speech recognition, text-to-speech and machine translation.
“The Skype community is big — REALLY big," wrote Peter Lee, Head of Microsoft Research in an email to Mashable."To make Skype Translator a reality, it needed great research to get the science right, and great engineering to make it practical and scalable."
Read the full story at Mashable.