People have always been interested to find a proper way to communicate with a person who speaks a different language. We want to be connected. So far we managed to find different ways to solve this issue – universal languages, translators, or apps. Even though there are other apps that revolutionized the translation scene, none of them are used at the same scale as Skype. With about 300 million active users that make more than 3 billion calls every day, Skype Translator should be a game changer. Most of the times we remember the cases that make a technology popular, not necessarily the ones who invent the technology. It’s the impact that matters for the normal user, because that’s when the change is truly felt.
The Skype Translator preview app was released at the end of 2014, and since, hundreds of thousands of users have offered feedback, so that the end product could be as good as possible. Among the participants who helped with valuable feedback, there were some inspirational and creative uses:
– A student who planned her yearlong study abroad trip to China only through Translator
– A multicultural, newly-engaged couple who kept in touch with each other’s families via weekly video chats
– An owner of a small business who communicates with his best suppliers through IM
– A PhD student who enhanced his thesis research with the help of experts in other countries
– A non-profit worker who used Skype Translator to unite donors and those in need
– An Australian world traveler who found his way across continents by translating key phrases
Early users were instrumental in the improvement of the translator. Some changes were actually made to the preview app. The progress should only benefit from expanded use.
The time has come for the Skype Translator to be available for millions of users, and break (at least some) language barriers. With six voice languages – English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, and 50 messaging languages into the Skype for Windows desktop app, the translator should improve global communication considerably. A whole new world of personal and professional possibilities has opened.
Researchers, engineers, and many others across Microsoft have been working for almost a decade at this project, based on Deep Neural Networks. It leverages Microsoft’s work in the areas of natural language processing, speech recognition, and machine learning. According to the company, the software is built on a world-class machine learning technology that gets smarter with usage. Basically, the entire experience should get better as more people use it.
To use Skype Translator, you will need to download Skype for desktop, and check your audio and headset settings if you want to make a call. Skype Translator works on Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 PCs. Using Skype Translator is, as you would expect, quite easy. Here is all you have to do:
1. Select the contact that you want to chat with or call.
2. If you need translator, click the settings button/globe icon. Choose the contact’s written language to see translations in the chat, or from the spoken and written list to hear the translation on a call.
3. Check the globe icon to see if translator is on.
The Translator update is being introduced to the Skype for Windows desktop app over the next few weeks. Look for two new icons in your Skype window, as shown in the red box below. Once they are installed, your Skype Translator is ready to use.
So far, there is a positive feedback for the Skype Translator. Users have reported some issues regarding translation, but not significant enough that your conversations will suffer. Some translation issues you will probably encounter, will be related to proper names or the names of smaller towns. Microsoft is keeping a close eye on the tool, taking into consideration every feedback sent by users. The next few months will probably be very update-friendly. There are no comments yet about the update for iOS or Android, but Microsoft has always been very cross-platform oriented, which means we can expect the update sometime soon.
In a post on the company blog, Skype said: “It has been a long-time dream at Skype to break down language barriers and bring everyone across the globe closer together. Now, you have even more reasons to chat with people around the world – bringing together family, friends, and students. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities to do even more together across not only distances, but also languages.”
To some extent, we must believe that language barriers are starting to break. Though it might not seem like much, globally connected users will look back on this update some time from now – after talking in Mandarin for the first time, and they might just think: that’s when it all started.