Skype Translator goes online for public testing

15 Dec 2014

From today, some Skype users will be able to test the communication tool’s new Translator function that will allow English speakers to communicate with Spanish speakers and vice versa.

The Microsoft-owned company announced its intention of creating a Star Trek-like universal translator last May with its eventual goal being to allow dozens of different languages to talk with one another without the need to learn the other person’s language.

Now Translator has been released for the first time to the public with certain limitations: it currently only works with English and Spanish speakers, and those wishing to try it must have Windows 8.1 installed on their computer or device.

In its video to mark the occasion, Skype connected two schools – Peterson School in Mexico City, and Stafford Elementary School in Tacoma, USA – to play a game of ‘Mystery Skype’, as Skype calls it, in which the children ask questions to determine the location of the other school.

While questions such as, “where are you from?”, can hardly be considered testing challenges for translation software, Skype has said a user’s Translator program uses machine learning whereby it will learn the language faster the more it is used and aims to have more than 40 languages that can be used with the service in the future.

The service is still in beta, however, and those looking to try Translator need to register their interest and wait to see if they have been included in the beta testing participants.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic