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Microsoft readies real-time language translator for Skype

Skype Translator currently supports about 40 languages and is expected to roll out later this year as a Windows 8 beta.

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Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Satya Nadella James Martin/CNET

Microsoft plans to roll out a real-time language translation feature for its popular Internet phone service by the end of the year, the company announced Tuesday.

The feature, dubbed Skype Translator, was demonstrated Tuesday by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during an onstage interview at the Recode Code Conference in Palos Verdes, Calif. During the demonstration, Nadella conducted a conversation with Skype chief Gurdeep Singh Pall, who was speaking German, while Skype provided real-time translation of the German into English and vice versa.

The feature, which is expected to debut as a consumer beta for Windows 8 later this year, currently supports translation for about 40 languages and will be available on all devices, Nadella said.

"This is about creating a learning system that improves with data," he said.

In a company blog post published in conjunction with the demonstration, Pall said the feature was the result of a decade spent researching speech recognition, automatic translation, and machine learning technologies.

"It is early days for this technology, but the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator isn't a galaxy away, and its potential is every bit as exciting as those Star Trek examples," Pall wrote. "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."