Windows users will suddenly find themselves able to speak seven different languages, as Microsoft’s real time translation technology is now available to everyone with Skype for Windows installed.
Skype’s feature translates speech between languages very nearly as it’s spoken. The app currently supports live voice translation in English, Chinese Mandarin, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Skype wrote in a blog post that it’s “working to roll out new languages and platforms,” while its text-to-text translation works with more than 50 languages.
Skype users on Windows can start translating by clicking on the globe icon in the upper righthand corner of the app. Users who don’t see this symbol should make sure their Skype app is up to date.
The broad rollout comes after Skype initially started introducing the translation service to Windows users in October. Skype first unveiled the feature at Re/code’s Code Conference in May 2014, while the preview version of the service launched in December 2014. Skype’s voice translator, which was previously available as a standalone app, was only able to translate two languages in real-time at that point.
Skype says French-to-English has been the most popular language pair so far. Meanwhile, the number of calls on the service has increased by 400% since Skype Translator’s launch.
Microsoft’s technology gets better at comprehending new languages over time thanks to machine learning, which enables computers to figure out how to complete new tasks without human intervention. With machine learning, algorithms learn what to do in the future based on what was experienced in the past, as this document from a Princeton University computer science course explains.