The preview program will kick-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device.
The very well-done video shows the real potential, though:
I think many of us have always wanted the Star Trek Universal Translator and while this "preview" from Microsoft is not yet near that sci-fi ideal, it's definitely a very intriguing step along that direction. I like the idea that it can do both speech and text translation. Given my travel to different parts of the world, the idea of being able to whip out my smartphone and be able to translate to and from another language is definitely welcome.
I'm told the Windows 8.1 restriction is because it is based on Microsoft's Cortana 'personal assistant' technology. Given that I have no Windows 8.1 devices nor expect to anytime soon, I won't personally get a chance to check out this Skype Translator preview. (Although obviously I would expect Microsoft is hoping that perhaps this may help drive some people to use Windows 8.1.)
On a macro level, I think it's great that Microsoft/Skype is undertaking this kind of research and development. Certainly anything that can help bridge communication challenges is welcome in this global age!
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