In a move that should receive a lot of attention from the natural language processing community, Skype is introducing real-time translation to calls made to landlines and mobile numbers for its premium users.
The program will initially be open to members of the early-access Windows Insider Program, which includes Skype’s own beta program Skype Preview.
When you dial, you should see a Skype Translator option next to the call button. From there, you can access settings to set languages and then make your call.
“Once the person on the other side picks up they will hear a short message stating that the call is being recorded and translated through Skype Translator and then you can start talking!” read the announcement.
“Additionally, you can start a call if someone is a Skype contact with a mobile or landline stored in the profile.* Select the contact, tap on the Skype Translator icon to bring up translate options. Save your options then tap the call button and select the phone number you want to call.”
A number of services are trying to roll out real-time voice-to-voice translation, from the big tech in Google Translate to a crowdfunded Waverly in-ear wearable that translates face-to-face conversations a la Star Trek.
Skype’s translator covers nine of the world’s most common languages for now: English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, French, German, and Italian. There was no indication if they would be adding more.
This is far from the linguistic repertoire of open written translation services like Google Translate, Yandex.Translate, or Microsoft Translator, but periodically announce the addition of more languages.
“The more Skype Translator is used, the higher the quality of translations,” the announcement reminded readers, alluding to their technology’s machine learning capabilities. “We’re excited about this next milestone as it expands to getting more people using Skype Translator.”