Skype debuts real-time speech translator in semi-open preview

Skype translator isn't perfect, but it's really cool

Skype

Once in a while technology inches just a little bit closer to one of those world-changing applications we know will one day be possible - you know, like real-time language translation.

Who hasn't watched a sci-fi movie where some hero's "neural implant" lets them hear and speak alien tongues like they were born to it and thought "I could really use one of those"?

With its new Skype Translator Preview, Microsoft is one tiny step closer to making that a reality.

The Skype Translator interprets your speech into another language in more or less real time, playing a translated version for your conversation partner and simultaneously transcribing what's been said.

A smile in any language

It can translate text chats in 45 languages, although in this early phase Microsoft says it only supports "a few languages" where the spoken word is concerned. As you can see in the video above, it's not perfect, but there's also clearly a lot of potential.

In addition Skype Translator is currently only available on Windows 8.1 devices, though that should change at some point down the road.

"Eligible" users who register at Skype.com will get access to the Skype Translator Preview. There are a limited number of spots, and unfortunately Microsoft gives no hints as to what might make you eligible.

There's all kinds of software around that can do this type of thing already, but to see it working so relatively well - and with the ubiquity of Skype factored in - this is pretty exciting.

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