by Aislinn Ritchie
The dream of being able to communicate with people whose language you don't speak may well be coming true. We've seen those amazing devices in Star Trek that automatically translate everything you say into an alien language and also mean that all aliens conveniently speak English with a distinct American accent. But now Microsoft have unveiled a prototype piece of software that can translate what you say into another language and can also speak with the same voice tone as you have in your native language. Your translated speech will actually sound like you!
An article in Extreme Tech, Microsoft unveils universal translator that converts your voice into another language, tells more about this remarkable breakthrough and though I don't expect it to replace human interpreters any time soon it could help in some situations. The device needs to spend some time with you to learn your voice patterns and intonation but once trained it can give a relatively good imitation of how you would sound if you really did speak Spanish or Chinese. Just like text translation tools it's bound to have limitations but today's tools are able to learn and adapt. Text translations between major languages (French, English, Spanish) are often very readable today and accuracy is improving. This speech translator isn't ready for mainstream release but it's in the pipeline. Just imagine being able to have an e-meeting with another country and being able to speak each other's languages.
Watch the demo of the translator by Rick Rashid, Microsoft Chief Research Officer, and colleagues at the recent TechFest 2012 (you need to jump to about 12 minutes into the presentation to get to the translator item).