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Microsoft unveils Skype Translator, real-time service to break down language barriers

Microsoft has unveiled a new feature for Skype, a real-time translation service which promises to bring a little bit of science fiction to the VoIP and IM client.

Gurdeep Pall, Corporate VP of Skype and Lync at Redmond, demonstrated the new functionality at the Code Conference yesterday, promising that in the near future this tech would bring down language barriers across the globe.

Skype Translator, as the service is imaginatively named, has undergone years of work at Redmond, and combines Skype voice and IM tech with Microsoft Translator and neural network driven speech recognition.

The demo showed it facilitating a "near real-time" audio translation from English to German, and then vice versa. From the feedback we've seen on the net, it seems the translation was decent enough, though hardly perfect. Still, as long as you can get the message, that's the important part – and it is, of course, still early days for this software as Redmond made clear.

Indeed Gurdeep Pall (pictured above demonstrating the system at the Code Conference) said that the Star Trek ideal of a universal translator "isn't a galaxy away," and he added: "Skype Translator opens up so many possibilities to make meaningful connections in ways you never could before in education, diplomacy, multilingual families and in business."

So when can you expect the product to arrive? It'll hit Windows 8 in beta form before the year is out. No other details were offered, and it's not clear if this software will be free to Skype users.

It's good to see Microsoft bringing something new to Skype, as innovation has been in rather short supply since Redmond acquired the service. Indeed, you might want to have a read of our recent feature on Skype entitled: Why Microsoft should dump Skype, and roll its user base into Lync.