Microsoft Translator Demo Microsoft
Credit: Peter Gothard, Twitter

Microsoft began its Future Decoded event in London today, a conference that explores the impact technology can have in shaping our lives. During the event, Microsoft showed a demo of its Translator app, which had some very impressive functionality.

The app was able to translate the words of three people, speaking three different languages, simultaneously and in real-time. The participants were speaking in English, French, and German, and the service seemed to perform fairly well.

Each participant¬†was using Microsoft’s phone app to get a¬†translation of what the others were saying. In addition, the company displayed each transcript in two additional languages: Chinese and Klingon.

“The idea is to say ‘Everybody has a smart device, a smartphone or a tablet. What if we could harness the power of those smart devices to enable real-time, multilingual conversation translation for an in-person situation?’,” said Oliver Fortana, the director of product strategy for Microsoft Translator.

Still in Progress

Despite this, it was clear that Microsoft Translate isn’t quite there yet. The demo failed to detect speech in some cases, and only has support for nine languages. However, Fortana says this is being worked on.

By the end of the year, the Redmond giant will have text support for sixty languages. The speech recognition will also improve, likely powered by Microsoft’s recent human parity breakthrough.

The most recent addition was Russian, and Microsoft is working on the addition of additional languages. It looks like the feature will be integrated into Skype, and will also work in the browser, Android, iOS and Windows. Most importantly, it will sport an offline translation engine.

Despite the current drawbacks, it’s a huge step forward for Microsoft and translation in general. No doubt the Redmond giant will use its continued breakthroughs in AI and speech recognition to further improve the service.