Remember the iconic Universal Translator from Star Trek? Microsoft announced yesterday that it is planning to roll out a similar language translation feature for Skype by the end of the year.
Dubbed Skype Translator, the feature would allow people who don’t speak the same language to talk with each other, while Skype handles translation in real time.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella demonstrated the feature during an onstage interview at the Recode Code Conference in Palos Verdes, California. He conducted a conversation with Gurdeep Pall, Corporate Vice President of Skype and Lync at Microsoft, who was speaking German.
Pall said in a follow-up post that the company has been working on the technology for more than a decade now. "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", he added.
Skype Translator, which is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams, will be first available as a Windows 8 beta app before the end of 2014. The feature currently supports about 40 languages.
Skype boasts more than 300 million active users each month, who spend more than 2 billion minutes of conversation a day. Nadella said that the company's eventual goal is to launch the language translation feature on as many devices as possible.
Microsoft is not the only player in real-time language translation space. Japanese wireless carrier NTT Docomo has been offering a Japanese to English real-time language translator since 2011. Google has also been working on a similar technology for its voice chats.