back to article Skype to become 'Star Trek' style real-time translator, says Redmond

Microsoft has demonstrated real-time translation of conversations conducted over Skype. Redmond showed off the tool at a shindig called Code Conference in California, and released the video below to show it off. The video uses Redmond's usual oh-so-shiny optimistic style. If you want to see the translation in action, fast …


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  1. frank ly

    My hovercraft is full of eels


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: My hovercraft is full of eels


      First thing that came to my mind.

    2. TheVogon

      Re: My hovercraft is full of eels

      Is it going to be able to understand all of the technical terms like 'Double Header' required to translate your typical Skype conversation?

      1. plrndl

        Re: My hovercraft is full of eels (Bing on Facebook)

        I have a Hungarian friend on Facebook who sometimes posts in her native language, which Bing then offers to translate for me. The "translations" vary from completely incomprehensible English to almost pure Hungarian (only the word "fuck" was in English). I've never seen one which was in any way worthwhile, except as a joke.

        1. phil dude

          Re: My hovercraft is full of eels (Bing on Facebook)

          doesn't work very well in any language...and that is with text! What could possibly go wrong with natural speech...


    3. king of foo

      Re: My hovercraft is full of eels

      Please fondle my buttocks

  2. Volker Hett

    With Bing Translator?

    like that on Facebook?

    Beer, because you need it then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: With Bing Translator?

      Beer? I'd say you'll need something a lot stronger. At least I did, after trying the "translation" in Facebook...

  3. Sebastian Brosig

    15 seconds..

    ..and a 2lb bag of salt.

    Really, taking a stopwatch to a promotional video?

    Remember this one?

    OK it's not Apple but we don't really expect that much more honesty

  4. LoopyChew

    Shouldn't that be "les couilles du chien?"

    1. Norman Hartnell

      Don't encourage them.

  5. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Seems like a very good reason not to use skype really. How many personal conversations would you really want written down?

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Less than one second?

    I'd like to see how it manages with e.g. German (where the verb is at the end of the sentence) to English (where it's at the start).

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Less than one second?

      If it's 1s after the sentence finishes what's the problem?

      I've no idea how quickly human translators can do this, presumably they also need to wait until the sentence is resolved? If not, an AI could learn the same things.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Less than one second?

        Hope it's not the same AI as Google Translate.

    2. Norman Hartnell

      Re: Less than one second?

      @Dan 55 "English (where it's at the start)."

      Within the endlessly-nested folders, full of countless Access database files, the information lurked.

    3. Nifty Silver badge

      Re: Less than one second?

      RE; How does it deal with verbs in German sentences being at the end

      - It recognizes the joke from a database and tells you the punchline in good time.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I won't be downloading that version...3 letters why...


    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: I won't be downloading that version...3 letters why...

      Yeah your dog's foot problem is really of interest to NSA. It's not really of interest to anyone, including the person you're telling about it on Skype.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        dog's foot problem

        Thats's a code word, send in the SWAT team now and shoot to kill.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Meanwhile the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different cultures and races, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Babel

      That was their plan all along!

  9. Christoph

    That could have problems

    Machine translation of text is a long way from perfect - it sometimes produces gobbledygook. But at least you can read the result carefully, and try to work out what it means. And it's working from text - aside from misspellings it knows exactly what the original is.

    Voice translation can mishear the original, and then has the same problems as text translation. But if it's translating a real time conversation, there's no time to go back and carefully examine what it said. So a slight bobble in phrasing might mean a big difference in interpretation.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: That could have problems

      "So a slight bobble in phrasing might mean a big difference in interpretation."

      ...causing a huge warfleet to be outfitted and sent to destroy an entire planet, only to be swallowed by a dog.

      (Yes, the one with the towel in the pocket)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What Microsoft paid for Skype

    I always assumed taking control of a previously tricky to intercept system was part of the deal the MS made so that the antitrust vanished.

  11. Kristian Walsh

    Closer to a product now, I guess...

    I though this demo of what I guess is the same system, from 2012 was very impressive. The presenter also goes into a bit of detail about how the speech recognition bit is done.

    I have no clue with Mandarin, but the audience seemed to be happy with the quality of translation.

  12. Joe Harrison

    What about the pagans?

    How is Skype going to know which witch is which?

  13. Lee D

    If it's anything like Bing Translate, they can keep it.

    My Italian friends are frequently in hysterics at the translations it gives of quite simple Italian phrases - not just bad grammar, but totally inverting the meaning of the sentence or failing altogether to translate words that a quick Google pops up the English for in seconds. Unfortunately, the Facebook default is Bing (wonder how much that cost them).

    We only use Google Translate: not perfect, obviously struggles on local dialect words and things like that, but at least you can get the gist of a post. Wouldn't want to think what the average speech recognition accuracy would add to the error margins on Bing... you have to remember that a 90% recognition rate on a translation tool that's 90% right is actually giving an overall accuracy of 81%. And, to be honest, I've never got any voice recognition tool to work well enough to justify it... Siri just completely blanked me just now, then didn't understand me, then finally realised I asked for a web search, then from "furry dice" managed to get "-". And then went off to Google "-".

    Sorry, voice just isn't there. It wasn't there 20 years ago, it's not there now.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Kernel

      @Lee D

      "Sorry, voice just isn't there. It wasn't there 20 years ago, it's not there now."

      How true - I fully agree with you, no-one should put any R&D effort into anything until it's been fully perfected.

  14. PaulR79

    Cockney Rhyming Slang available?

    I wonder if there would be one where you talk to it normally and it comes out like a market stall owner speaking in CRS. I also wonder what it'll make of a Birrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmingham or Liverpool accent. Almost every voice software I've used for the past 10 years has required me to train myself how to speak so the computer understands rather than the other way around and I don't have that strong an accent.

  15. Rattus Rattus

    So kind of like Google Translate's conversation mode on my phone, except three years later and less accurate? Okay, got it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nah, Microsoft have much better technology in that space - and well before Google ever did.

      Google only mentioned the concept in 2010. Microsoft actually demonstrated a working product at that time:

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nah, Microsoft have much better technology in that space - and well before Google ever did.

        So why's it so bad at it now?

  16. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    The amazing thing is not that the dog dances...

    It's kind of pointless to be able to do a real time translation when for most conversations the audio delay and distortion makes the service unusable...

  17. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    What languages are available?

    Will they be doing American to English?

  18. Outcast !!!

    Background tech:

    Powered by NSA.

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