Fans of Star Trek will be familiar with the universal communicator, and Skype is making moves in that direction. Users can now download an app which will translate conversations into a variety of languages.
Skype Translator Preview: A sneak peek into the future?
The Skype Translator Preview marks a step towards breaking down language barriers during online communications. Microsoft announced this Tuesday that the beta app has been made available to those using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 Technical Preview, with no need to sign up or join a waiting list.
Those wishing to translate a spoken conversation with an Italian, Mandarin or Spanish speaker can now do so using the app, which is free to download from the Windows Store. Microsoft claims that the app works with the vast majority of Skype clients, which means that only you need to download the app in order to have your conversation translated.
Instant message conversations can also be translated between over 50 languages, including Klingon, in a nod to Star Trek fans. Skype with the Translator Preview looks almost identical to the standard Skype app. The most important addition is a Translation slider which appears beneath the name of each contact once you enter a conversation.
Important technological advance
Instead of being able to differentiate between spoken languages by itself, Skype Translator relies on the user to set the languages which each person is speaking or writing in. The app asks you to do so when the Translation feature is enabled, or you can select the language options beneath the slider.
Microsoft advises users to wear a headset with a microphone during a Translator call, instead of a stand-alone mic. The company encourages using a wired internet connection and not WiFi, and advises that translated calls will also take longer to connect than a standard call.
Skype has published a list of Translator tips on its website, and the service represents an important advance in online communication. Microsoft has beaten Google to an important punch, and will hopefully extend the capabilities of the service to a wider range of languages in the future.