Musings on Skype Translator
On December 15, Microsoft released a preview version of Skype translator that works for English and Spanish. This followed some earlier announcements last summer about the product. What does this mean for UC?
Microsoft has a history of inquiry into translation services and UC that stretches back to a demo they showed at TechFest 2010 that could do real-time translation between English and German for Office Communicator. A couple of years later they released Bing Voice Search services. A text translator was already available for Lync, so it was inevitable that the voice translation technology would eventually emerge for Lync or Skype.
Anyone who watched Star Trek can appreciate the business and economic value of eliminating language barriers. I would love to be able to make all of my own arrangements for my business or personal travel to remote areas of the world where English simply is not available. Similarly, I relish the idea of being able to easily converse with the outsourced developers I might be contracting with in China or Russia. The possibilities are endless.
As previewed, Skype Translator will act like it is a third-party party translator, which means people will not be taking to each other but will need to adjust to talking through the Skype Translator. That will take some practice and familiarity, but it is not an insurmountable obstacle.
I'll be attending a briefing on the "deep learning" technology behind Skype Translator next week, so it would be premature to comment on the technology itself right now. But I am curious about whether this will be a proprietary Skype to Skype play or a platform play that Microsoft will offer as a service to applications like telemedicine that may not use Skype specifically as an endpoint but are willing to embed it in the overall telemedicine solution.
Of course, Skype Translator is not the first such product to market - SpeechTrans and Jibbigo have been around for quite some time. But Skype translator has the potential to disrupt the UC market in very interesting ways because of Microsoft's footprint in the consumer and enterprise UC markets.
If you want to play with Skype Translator you can sign up for the technical preview at http://www.skype.com/en/translator-preview/.
Also on UCStrategies.com on this topic: