Microsoft Adds More Speech Capabilities to Skype Translator

Microsoft yesterday launched Phase Two of its Skype Translator Preview Program and announced a number of significant changes to the speech-recognition-driven communications software that can translate conversations in real time.

Among the additions is the ability to mute the audio, add speech recognition warnings so customers are prompted when the translator is having a hard time understanding the speaker, and the addition of text-to-speech recognition, allowing users to switch between text-to-speech and speech-to-speech translation. Microsoft also added Mandarin Chinese and Italian to the spoken languages available.

Some of the other changes in the new version of Skype Translate include the following:

  • Text-to-speech translation, with the option to hear the instant messages people send in any supported language;
  • Continuous recognition as the person is speaking;
  • Automatic volume control; and
  • Mute option for translated voice, allowing users to turn the translated audio on or off if they would prefer to only read the transcript.

Yasmin Khan, a Skype product marketer at Microsoft, said in a blog post that the goal of the product changes was "to make it easier for you to connect with people around the world, no matter where you are and what language you speak.

"The focus of our updates in this preview release is to streamline interactions between participants so you can have a more natural conversation using Skype Translator," she wrote.

In December, Microsoft announced the first phase of the Skype Translator preview program. These latest changes are the result of feedback Microsoft heard from early adopters, according to Khan.

"Based on what we heard from early adopters, we made some updates to the current version of Skype Translator, which we believe are big steps forward in making the translation of human-to-human conversations across language barriers more accessible," she wrote.

The Skype Translator preview is currently available only on devices running Windows 8.1 or the Windows 10 Technical Preview, though Microsoft is expected to make it ultimately available across a wide variety of devices and operating systems.

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