Skype’s real-time language translator is impressive already, but it can’t get better without more data. So later this summer, Skype Translator Preview will break out of the Windows Store and become a feature in Skype’s main desktop software.
Skype Translator acts like a human interpreter for video calls, listening to words in one language and speaking them in another—albeit with a computerized voice. It also shows a text version of the translation in a chat window. So far, the software can translate four spoken languages (English, Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin) and 50 instant messaging languages.
Until now, however, the preview version of Skype Translator has required at least one chat participant to have a separate app from the Windows Store, which only worked on PCs running Windows 8.1 or higher. Bringing Translator to Skype’s main desktop software should expand its reach to many more users, including the vast number of people who still use Windows 7.
Getting more users is essential for the technology, which uses machine learning to improve translation quality. Microsoft has said it spent 10 years researching the technology, which can filter out vocal tics and discern between homophones.
Still, the company continues to draw on user feedback and input from human transcribers to refine its translations. In a blog post, Microsoft notes that it saw a 300-percent increase in Skype Translator usage since it opened up the app to everyone last month.
Why this matters: Even if you have Windows 8.1 (or the Windows 10 Preview), using a separate Windows Store app may not be ideal, as it doesn’t have all the same capabilities as Skype’s desktop software. Folding translation into the desktop version will make it more accessible to everyone—provided you have enough people on hand to help break the language barrier.