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Microsoft’s Star Trek language translator coming in 2014

Skype Translator will allow two people speaking different languages to communicate in real-time

Microsoft has demoed a real-time translation service for the first time as the firm looks to make language barriers obsolete.

The Skype Translator is the product of 15 years of research, with Microsoft using speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning to create the software.

During a demo at the Code conference in California, Gurdeep Pall, corporate VP of Skype and Lync, carried out a Skype video call with a German speaking colleague.

Speech was translated from English to German and vice versa, in near real-time allowing for a normal conversation to take place between the participants. 

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In a blog post, Pall compared the technology to the Universal Translator used on the classic TV show Star Trek. In the show, a handheld device allowed real-time communication between humans and alien species by scanning brain-wave frequencies.

Whilst Microsoft has stopped short of scanning brains and using a clumsy looking handheld microphone, the technology appears to work just as well and has the potential to revolutionise the way we communicate.

"As you saw from my conversation with Diana, it is early days for this technology, but the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator isn't a galaxy away, and its potential is every bit as exciting as those Star Trek examples," Pall noted.

"Skype Translator opens up so many possibilities to make meaningful connections in ways you never could before in education, diplomacy, multilingual families and in business. 

Microsoft confirmed the Skype Translator will be rolled out as a Windows 8 beta app before the end of 2014.  

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