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Microsoft Technology

Microsoft Demos Real-Time Translation Over Skype 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the speaking-the-same-language dept.
Z80xxc! (1111479) writes "Today at the first annual Code Conference, Microsoft demonstrated its new real-time translation in Skype publicly for the first time. Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft's VP of Skype and Lync, compares the technology to Star Trek's Universal Translator. During the demonstration, Pall converses in English with a coworker in Germany who is speaking German. 'Skype Translator results from decades of work by the industry, years of work by our researchers, and now is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams. The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition.'"
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Microsoft Demos Real-Time Translation Over Skype

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  • I like the bit where it says ""It looks like you're writing a letter..."

    • I like the bit where it says ""It looks like you're writing a letter..."

      That comment brought a smile to my face, at least.

      I wouldn't have commented on it, were it not because it has been marked 'Troll' - this seems to happen whenever somebody makes even the slightest, negative comment about certain things, like in this case Microsoft, or in other cases Apple. That makes me wonder if there is a person or group of persons on /. who is on a mission to censor everything they don't like? Whatever it is, I think it is a petty and unworthy thing to do; speak out openly if you are oppo

  • I can only imagine the "real time" misunderstandings this new tech will bring! It would be amazing if it did work effectively!
  • by cusco (717999) <brian...bixby@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:04PM (#47114515)

    Back when I was about ten years old (1971) I asked my grandfather, "When you were my age did you imagine computers and men on the moon?"

    He replied, "Brian, when I was your age someone told me about radio, with people talking to each other across the ocean without wires. I didn't believe them."

  • Classic joke.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sconeu (64226) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:11PM (#47114633) Homepage Journal

    I want to know if it translates "Out of sight, out of mind" properly.

    Also, how the fuck did that fuckhead spammer BillTheEngineer get to post zillions of copies of his spam, all at 16:04, while us regular users have to wait 5 minutes?

    I guess it's true, like DRM, the wait period only hurts rules-abiding users.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CRCulver (715279)

      Also, how the fuck did that fuckhead spammer BillTheEngineer get to post zillions of copies of his spam, all at 16:04, while us regular users have to wait 5 minutes?

      I don't know, but I'm in awe. I once reposted the MyCleanPC troll as a tongue-in-cheek response to a poster who seemed like he was shilling, and it triggered some kind of detection filter in Slashcode, so my account was frozen. I had to contact the admins to get it restored.

      Yet somehow BillTheEngineer has posted it not just once, but myriad tim

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Yet somehow BillTheEngineer has posted it not just once, but myriad times. Verily, in days of yore bards would recite this glorious deed of valor down the ages.

        In days of yore he would have had to do that shit with a paintbrush. How many times do you think he'd manage that before John Cleese or whoever showed up?

      • It's probably coming from the owners of Slashdot, dice holdings. How to shut up slashdot: Step 1. Buy it. Step 2. Figure out a way to shut it up. Allowing spamming is one way, how easy it would be to fix? Same thing happened to yahoo chat back in the day, you used to talk to real people, and after a while it was all bots. I noticed dice holdings updated their security certificate today, so it's no longer nagging, but now they started with the spamming. No more community venue of venting frustrations and hel
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by CRCulver (715279)

          Geez, before you develop a conspiracy theory of Dice opening the site up to spammers, actually read the posts here: they are not spamming a product, they are parodying the spam that the company behind MyCleanPC used to post. BillTheEngineer isn't a spammer, he's a troll who has found a way to crapflood the comments section just like in the good ol' days.

          Your Slashdot UID is not much different from mine, I would have expected you to have been around here long enough to be familiar with the common trolls. Rep

    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      And he has a karma bonus. Must be spamming ads -for- Dice and their advertisers.

      What with the banner ad that comes up every time even though I have ads disabled. The bottom window shade ad box that I have to hide every time, and the beta fiasco, its a wonder more are not on soylent or pipedot.

      We will welcome you with open arms.

      • by CRCulver (715279)
        If you actually read his posts, you'll find that they are not the real ads for MyCleanPC that were going around a few years ago, but hyperbolic parodies of them. He's not a spammer, just a troll.
      • by i.kazmi (977642)
        its not Bill_The_Engineer, its BIIL_The_Engineer, someone's trying to pose as him to make him look like a spammer...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by master_kaos (1027308)

      [quote]Also, how the fuck did that fuckhead spammer BillTheEngineer get to post zillions of copies of his spam, all at 16:04, while us regular users have to wait 5 minutes?[/quote]
      He actually posted it in 20 different languages but Skype automatically translated them all to English for us...

    • I want to know if it translates "Out of sight, out of mind" properly.

      It almost certainly does. It likely has a hard coded list of common idioms, along with pre-translated corresponding idioms in the target language. That is how almost all modern translators work. Try typing something like "It is raining cats and dogs." into Google translate, and you will almost always get the correct meaning, rather than a literal translation.

      • Try typing something like "It is raining cats and dogs." into Google translate, and you will almost always get the correct meaning, rather than a literal translation.

        I just tried that, and in Portuguese it came up with "Está chovendo gatos e cachorros" (literal translation) with an alternative translation of "Está chovendo muito" (it's raining a lot).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Khyber (864651)

      "Also, how the fuck did that fuckhead spammer BillTheEngineer get to post zillions of copies of his spam, all at 16:04, while us regular users have to wait 5 minutes?"

      A vulnerability in Slashdot's beta code that I fond and sold for $250. Fuck responsible disclosure, you force this shit upon us, we force some shit right back.

      This vulnerability is also present in the last released version of slashcode, so it will work on other sites.

      Gotta thank the SoyentNews crew for making that VM. Made my bughunting life s

      • I'm wondering how that fuckhead spammer BillTheEngineer is using my username but with a different UID.
        • There definitely used to be something to prevent that. IIRC even things that were just close to existing names - differing just by case, or punctuation - weren't allowed either.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          The exact same vulnerability.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          I was just joking, partially. The same vulnerability that allows repeated posts also happens to be linked to the username registration filters. The first L in his name is actually a capital i.

  • by the_humeister (922869) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:12PM (#47114653)

    It's impressive but relatively speaking, still easy. Now if they can do English to Japanese and vice versa, that would be taking it to 11.

    • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:28PM (#47114813)
      I'd be happy with English to Texas English for when I have to deal with my family in the South.
    • by vux984 (928602)

      So... its this done in the 'cloud' with all your conversation recorded, logged, analyzed and then the translation sent back?

      Pretty much impossible to have a secure conversation if so. Of course, having a secure conversation of any type on skype is an oxymoron anyway.

      I'll be "impressed" when they do real time translation on end-end encrypted connections without an eavesdropping service in the middle. (ie i run the translation locally with nothing leaking out.)

    • by Branka96 (628759)
      Go and watch Stanford Colloquium [stanford.edu] where Rick Rashid from Microsoft Research shows a live demo from China translating from English to Chinese in real time. It's near the end (1:09).
    • by donaldm (919619) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @11:20PM (#47116379)
      Actually English is derived from a West German dialect called Frisian, however over the centuries it has incorporated many other languages including early French and Danish. Still you are right it is relatively easy to translate English to German and vice-versa however it is also very easy to to stuff up the context which can easily be misinterpreted. A good example of this is to go to a web site that is in a different language and see how the page translator handles this.

      Japanese or even to Chinese to English translations can be quite strange to the English speaker and that is only translating the written language. As for almost real time translation of the spoken word I hope lazy diplomats don;t even use this technology (at least not yet) otherwise World War III is just around the corner :)
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        It seems like Japanese/Chinese to English translation won't be good for a long time yet because it requires context and general knowledge to work. For example in Chinese there isn't a word for "no"; people say things like "it isn't" or "I cannot" but not a generic "no". So the translator has to translate a generic "no" in English into a more specific reason in Chinese, and vice versa. It can only do that if it is following the conversation to get some context.

        In Japanese it is only apparent if the speaker i

    • by lennier1 (264730)

      Even with languages that share a common ancestry, these programs still have trouble when it comes to context, as shown in the following screenshot on the same topic.
      http://www.androidcentral.com/... [androidcentral.com]

      In this case the software tried to translate "move", which the original text uses in the context of "cancel the lease on your apartment and move to a different address" (German word would be "umziehen") and instead picks the German word "verschieben", which is the translation in the context of "grab and item and

  • Translate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:21PM (#47114731)

    The NSA must really love this feature. They can view any encrypted conversation held via skype AND it gets translated automagically for them? Amazing!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:42PM (#47114933)
    This is just a cover for why Microsoft needs to add Text-to-Speech to the Skype binary. The real purpose is to forward the discussions to the NSA.
  • I think the use of the phrase "real time" is a bit sensational. To me, that suggests that the translation is being heard on the recipient's end while the speaker is still speaking.
    Obviously there has to be some delay in order to account for sentence structure differences between languages, but the fact that the speaker basically has to complete a paragraph and then wait for it to go through makes it seem like their software is "simply" taking the output of dictation software, piping it into Google translate
  • Why can't "cool new thing X" ever be discussed on its own merits, without insanely hyperbolic comparisons to "sci-fi trope Y" that it's entirely different from?

    "3D printer - it's a Replicator!"
    "VR headset - Holodeck!"
    "Shitty voice input - Artificial Intelligence!"

    It gets pretty silly.
    • Wait till it bites you in the ass. Have you seen the movie "Screamers"? I think from 1996 or 5. Check out some youtube footages.
  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:02PM (#47115063)

    Now if this device could tell me what my wife is saying....

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Reminds me of an old joke:

      A guy was walking along the beach, found a bottle, and picked it up. A magical genie popped out and said, "Thanks for letting me out. For your kindness I will grant you one wish." The guy said, "I've always wanted to go to Hawaii, but I can't because I'm afraid to fly and ships make me deathly sick. My wish is for you to build a highway from here to Hawaii." The genie replied, "I'm sorry, but I don't think I can do that. Just think of all the work involved. Think of the huge piling

  • I suggest they fix crashes first (happens regularly to me on iOS, Android and OS X), and just then they start adding features. I can't help it, but before microsoft bought the Skype, I barely seen it crash in years. But now, a longer call hardly goes by without crashing either on my or the other end. As much as I hate sharing my camera and microphone with google, I slowly migrate to hangouts -- not because I like, but because it doesn't crash.
  • For instance, it would be nice if the lastest version of Skype for Windows didn't sometimes freeze for 45 seconds at a time when merely sending an instant message, with no audio or video call in progress.

    A translator for Skype? Bah, that just needs a fixed vocabularly of audio files consisting of "can you hear me now?" and "I cannot see you!" in 50 languages.

  • Dear Aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.

  • Can we do it without Kara's inane commentary?
  • Another example how to degrade intellect, may the whole world speak as 2 year olds. It's magic, sure, Disney is magic too. We don't know how it really works. Cool. Guess it autocoded too then. I'll stick to learning languages with my real brain, real fingers, real skills, real knowledge. Not that magic but way more efficient.
  • by BrendaEM (871664) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @02:57AM (#47117123) Homepage

    It's sad that the open source alternatives are just not progressing, nor popular.

    So, skype is known NSA hacked program made by a company that patented video spying.

  • As of yet again, MS is using their stronghold and products they buy, that used to work in every platform to leverage Windows. The features will come first to Skype in Windows. And lets say skype has had some real bugs in installing under linux 64 bits for quite a while.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2014 @04:39AM (#47117433)

    German native here. I think this is just a marketing stunt. The german translation was so bad that it most of the time didnt make sense.
    Also the german voice tried to simplify the text as much as possible to give a more or less understandable english version.
    Real time translation has a looong way to go. At the moment it is as usable as google translate for chinese web-sites.

    • by Sique (173459)
      Yes, this video sounds promising only for a english public, because the german speaker especially chosed sentences that are grammatically simple and fit similar structures in the english language. And she took care to speak especially clearly and made pauses between the words to improve the recognizability for the voice interpreter. The english speaker spoke much more naturally, and thus the translation into german was rather awful, and as a german native, you sometimes had to hear the english sentence to m
  • Chère tante, nous allons définir si le double du tueur supprimer tout sélectionner

  • I had a device installed in my border patrol booth which could translate a variety of Eastern European languages to English text in realtime as far back as 1982.
  • Instead of spending so much money they could have got the technology for a tenth of the price if they had cooperated with Prof. Waibel, Univeristy of Karlsruhe (now KIT) and CMU.
    He had a working system running since now nearly 20 years, it uses Japanese as intermediate language, so everything is translated first into Japanese and from there into the target language.
    The first official big demonstration was when Billy Gates visited the KIT and gave a speech. The system translated his speech in realtime from e

  • As someone who works in the field of machine translation, I find this to be a nifty feature, but not that all impressive. Its just a text-to-speech, speech recognition combined with the shitty bing translate. Will work for general conversation, but probably completely breaks down on field specific conversations. They could also demo other language pairs, as english and german is the easiest pair to machine translate from one another, and are two of the easiest languages to apply speech recognition and tex
  • Too bad some dickhead impersonated my username and spammed the fuck out of this article, because I had a great Better off Ted reference.

    It's hard to be romantic when the translator makes everyone sound like Phil.

  • Now we can communicate on skype even if we speak different languages. I wonder how much businesses are going to be happy after this launch.
  • If they're using the same translation engine as they do for Bing, it is already a failure. If you think Google translate is bad, Bing seems to purposely make the most absurd choices.
  • by Knacklappen (526643) <knacklappen@gmx.net> on Thursday May 29, 2014 @10:08AM (#47118917) Journal
    I am disappointed by the bad quality of the translation to German, both in therms of grammar and words that have dual meaning. This is somewhat usable but not really something I would enjoy using. Also, the German lady spoke very slowly and overly accurate in pronunciation, probably because otherwise the software would fail. Move on, not much to see here...
  • The translation is not as bad as the experience sounds like it must have been. Note that German and English are very similar as languages go.

    "Recently ate I a bad batch of Tacos from Taco Bell. Massive gastrointestinal complaints quickly. I tried quickly to the nearest bathroom . After what seemed like an eternity , I finally found what was probably the worst public bathroom in New York. So I sat down , risking a thousand different kinds of messed -butt disease to launch just in time for a nuclear -equippe

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