skype voice

Last night at Recode’s inaugural Code Conference, Microsoft announced a new real-time voice translation feature for its Skype VoIP service. The company says it’s currently in beta form, but it plans to eventually roll it out to all devices.

The goal of the feature is to allow users to hold a conversation with someone speaking a foreign language, with Skype providing near-instant voice translations for both parties. And judging by the initial demonstration, it works fairly well…

From Microsoft’s blog post on the new feature:

Skype Translator results from decades of work by the industry, years of work by our researchers, and now is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams. The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition. Skype Translator is a great example of why Microsoft invests in basic research. We’ve invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they’re emerging as important components in this more personal computing era. You can learn more about the research behind this initiative here.

And here is a [Flash] clip of last night’s demonstration:

Microsoft says that it plans to launch Skype Translator on Windows 8, as a beta app, by the end of 2014. It then hopes to be able to roll out the feature to Skype apps on other devices and computing platforms, but it doesn’t have a timeline.

Skype is currently available for iOS devices here, and Mac and Windows computers here.