Microsoft demos Skype real-time translator

Martin Brinkmann
May 28, 2014
Updated • May 28, 2014

Machine translation has come a long way in the past decade and while research and projects happened mostly behind closed doors or in academia, end user products have gotten better as well.

Web browsers for instance support a variety of translation options, from the built-in Google Translate in Chrome to dozens of add-ons for Firefox that provide you with translation options.

There have been attempts to translate chat in real-time, Clownfish and Skype Chat Translator are two plugins for Skype that offered those features.

But real-time voice translation, that's is new, at least when it comes to end-user products.

Microsoft has demoed a machine translation feature for Skype yesterday that showed how far research has already progressed in recent time.

You see a communication between the English speaking Pall and the German speaking Diana Heinrichs that is translated in real-time by the Skype application.

You should not expect a perfect quality just yet, and there are pauses as well before the computer starts to speak what is has translated, but all in all, it is astonishing how well this works.

As far as quality of the translation is concerned, it is comparable to Bing Translate. While that is sufficient to understand the meaning of what is being said most of the time, words are sometimes used out of context. A simple example: Pall's question "Hello Diana, how are you doing" is translated to "Hallo Diana, wie dir's geht" which is not a proper sentence in German. While the meaning is clear, it should have translated it to "Hallo Diana, wie geht es dir".

It is the equivalent of saying "Hello Diana, how doing are you" in English which is not proper as well even though the words are the same.

There is a second longer sentence where Pall answers a question about moving to London where the translation engine is using a wrong word.

The answer "Yes, I'm gonna be planning to move there sometime between the middle of June to the beginning of July if everything goes, but track" is translated to "Ja ich plane derzeit irgendwann zwischen Mitte Juni bis Anfang Juli zu verschieben, wenn alles geht, aber verfolgen".

The main issue is the word verschieben. While move can mean verschieben in German, in this particular case it should have been translated with umziehen instead as verschieben ist not used in this context.

The translations work well for the most part. In the particular case of translating English to German, it seems to use improper sentence structure at times.

"I think my family would love it there this Summer, but I'm sure my kids will miss their friends back in Seattle" is translated to "Ich denke, dass die Familie es dort diesen Sommer lieben würde, aber ich bin sicher, dass meine Kinder vermissen ihre Freunde zurück in Seattle" is another example.

There is nothing wrong with the first part of the translation, but in the second part, it is again the verb that is placed in the wrong location. The proper translation should have been "dass meine Kinder ihre Freunde in Seattle vermissen würden".

If you speak German, you can still understand what is being said though and that is probably more important at this point than proper sentence structure or use of words.

Here is Microsoft's promo video for the new feature.

Microsoft will launch Skype Translator as a beta feature for Skype on Windows later this year.


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  1. Some Dude said on March 19, 2023 at 11:42 am

    Are these articles AI generated?

    Now the duplicates are more obvious.

    1. boris said on March 19, 2023 at 11:48 pm

      This is below AI generated crap. It is copy of Microsoft Help website article without any relevant supporting text. Anyway you can find this information on many pages.

  2. Paul(us) said on March 20, 2023 at 1:32 am

    Yes, but why post the exact same article under a different title twice on the same day (19 march 2023), by two different writers?
    1.) Excel Keyboard Shortcuts by Trevor Monteiro.
    2.) 70+ Excel Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows by Priyanka Monteiro

    Why oh why?

    1. Clairvaux said on September 6, 2023 at 11:30 am

      Yeah. Tell me more about “Priyanka Monteiro”. I’m dying to know. Indian-Portuguese bot ?

  3. John G. said on August 18, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    Probably they will announce that the taskbar will be placed at top, right or left, at your will.

    Special event by they is a special crap for us.

  4. yanta said on August 18, 2023 at 11:59 pm

    If it’s Microsoft, don’t buy it.
    Better brands at better prices elsewhere.

  5. John G. said on August 20, 2023 at 4:22 am

    All new articles have zero count comments. :S

  6. Anonymous said on September 5, 2023 at 7:48 am

    WTF? So, If I add one photo to 5 albums, will it count 5x on my storage?
    It does not make any sense… on google photos, we can add photo to multiple albums, and it does not generate any additional space usage

    I have O365 until end of this year, mostly for onedrive and probably will jump into google one

  7. St Albans Digital Printing Inc said on September 5, 2023 at 11:53 am

    Photo storage must be kept free because customers chose gadgets just for photos and photos only.

  8. Anonymous said on September 5, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    What a nonsense. Does it mean that albums are de facto folders with copies of our pictures?

    1. GG said on September 6, 2023 at 8:24 am

      Sounds exactly like the poor coding Microsoft is known for in non-critical areas i.e. non Windows Core/Office Core.

      I imagine a manager gave an employee the task to create the album feature with hardly any time so they just copied the folder feature with some cosmetic changes.

      And now that they discovered what poor management results in do they go back and do the album feature properly?

      Nope, just charge the customer twice.

      Sounds like a go-getter that needs to be promoted for increasing sales and managing underlings “efficiently”, said the next layer of middle management.

  9. d3x said on September 5, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    When will those comments get fixed? Was every editor here replaced by AI and no one even works on this site?

  10. Scroogled said on September 5, 2023 at 10:47 pm

    Instead of a software company, Microsoft is now a fraud company.

  11. ard said on September 7, 2023 at 4:59 pm

    For me this is proof that Microsoft has a back-door option into all accounts in their cloud.
    quote “…… as the MSA key allowed the hacker group access to virtually any cloud account at Microsoft…..”

    so this MSA key which is available to MS officers can give access to all accounts in MS cloud.This is the backdoor that MS has into the cloud accounts. Lucky I never got any relevant files of mine in their (MS) cloud.

  12. Andy Prough said on September 7, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    >”Now You: what is your theory?”

    That someone handed an employee a briefcase full of cash and the employee allowed them access to all their accounts and systems.

    Anything that requires 5-10 different coincidences to happen is highly unlikely. Occam’s razor.

  13. TelV said on September 8, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Good reason to never login to your precious machine with a Microsoft a/c a.k.a. as the cloud.

  14. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:23 pm

    The GAFAM are always very careless about our software automatically sending to them telemetry and crash dumps in our backs. It’s a reminder not to send them anything when it’s possible to opt out, and not to opt in, considering what they may contain. And there is irony in this carelessness biting them back, even if in that case they show that they are much more cautious when it’s their own data that is at stake.

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