Microsoft has demonstrated a project that aims to enable speakers of all world's existing languages to chat seamlessly with each other using Skype’s new spoken word translator.
The test version of the technology has been shown off in California on Tuesday during the Code Conference technology in Rancho Palos Verdes.
The presentation included a real time conversation between an English-speaking Mirosoft executive and his German counterpart. According to the first reactions, there is still a lot to be improved before the technology gets to a usable stage and it certainly doesn't remove the need to learn foreign languages yet. One German-speaking audience member said the translation was good enough for vacation, but not for business.
According to Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, the company aims to roll out the application as part of Skype within the next months.
"It is going to make sure you can communicate with anybody without language barriers," said Nadella, who took over as Microsoft CEO in February and is keen to re-establish the company as a technology leader after a decade of slipping behind Apple and Google in mobile computing.
Nadella described the underlying technology as "magical," but said the task now was turn it into a real product rather than just a research project, promising it would launch by the end of the year. He did not say if it would be a free add-on for Skype users or a paid extra.
The new technology, which Microsoft demoed in a rougher form 18 months ago in China, could represent a significant feature for its Skype online chat service, which boasts hundreds of millions of users. It is an advance on Microsoft's current translation features that only work with written words on its Bing search engine and Internet Explorer browser.
Microsoft has been working hard on speech recognition technology for years. Earlier this year it showed off Cortana, its voice-activated "personal assistant" designed to rival Apple's Siri.