Language barriers might be a bit less insurmountable later this year when Microsoft releases the first beta of Skype Translator. As demoed last night at the Code Conference, Redmond is close to implementing near real-time voice translation of multiple languages in a Skype call. We might be getting close the the fabled babel fish.

The feature is already smart enough to translate between English and German with proper grammar and inflection almost instantly. More languages are expected, but there are a lot of nuances to each language that need to be worked out – it's more complicated than just translating word by word. If Microsoft can pull this off, it would be a blow to Google, which has been working on making translation faster for years.

The translation feature might not be a free service when it is ready for an official release, and you can expect it to be on Microsoft's platforms first. However, Skype Translator should make its way to Android and other platforms in time. The first beta will come to Windows 8 before the end of 2014.

[Microsoft, Microsoft Research]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • sean

    And there goes the universal translators.

  • jpelgrom

    That looks fantastic. However, Microsoft's voice recognition doesn't work particulary well in a loud or noisy environment, whereas Google's does...

  • Jephri

    These guys had universal translator devices all the way back in 1984. Nice to see you catch up Microsoft. Name the movie for 10 ultra nerd points.

    • http://www.binarytuberculosis.com BinaryTB

      If only video games would make me a war hero...

    • slimdizzy

      Last Starfighter I believe?


      • Jephri

        Ding ding ding

    • Shawn

      Star Trek had it back in the 60s :-P

      • Jephri

        But star trek took place in the future, not present day.

  • Jeffrey Tarman

    I think the main problem will be the different dialects used in each region of any given language. Boston vs any southern state, the same words/phrases are pronounced very differently. This will be amazing when polished especially for businesses

  • AndrĂ©s

    I hope it works but being Microsoft they always over promise and under deliver. IF they even deliver...

  • Momo

    Sorry to disappoint but as a german native speaker i felt this was totally smoke and mirrors then anything else. The quality of the translations from english to german was very google-translate like, and the german sentences the girl used were obviously carefully prepared upfront so it would be easily translatable for the software. Nobody really speaks like that. Almost hilarious.
    If you'd combine google voice recognition with their translate product you'd get pretty much the same results.

  • abobobilly

    I am not holding my breath for it considering how disastrous microsoft's speech recognition is. Actually disastrous would be understatement, consider it preposterous. Google is MILES ahead in this regard.

    Its ironic to see that a company such as Microsoft (who is officially available in Pakistan btw) doesn't do anything to correct its stupid Speech Recognition. Google detects my voice so flawlessly that it puts me to shame (due to bad accent). But Microsoft BARELY captures anything, and always mis-interprets it.

  • http://www.toysdiva.com Toys Samurai

    Well, Microsoft's research group has been working on machine translation since the 90s, Google was just a tiny search engine back then.

  • Dee Norbert

    Babilon ? Well we need more natural voice for the translator.

  • Michael J Carroll

    So this is where we start seeing the TARDIS become a reality, huh?

  • danifeb

    that will downgrade our skills and making us depending more and more to devices and machines.