Has Skype just invented the Babel Fish?

Alright, so it doesn't quite decode the brain wave matrix - but Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has unveiled a Skype speech recognition tool that instantly translates languages. Douglas Adams, eat your heart out.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 28 May 2014

Sod the internet of things - secretly, we all want Silicon Valley to apply its gigantic collective brain to replicating technology we've seen in sci-fi movies. Step forward Skype: it has almost invented the digital equivalent of Douglas Adams' Babel Fish - which, as all Hitchhiker's Guide fans know, enables the wearer to instantly understand any language.

Here's a video of it at work (skip to 3:00):

As you can see, the software still isn't perfect - grammatically, its grasp of German is at GCSE level, and conversations where you have to stop after each sentence to let it translate won't exactly flow - but, as Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft's vice-president of Skype (who is planning to move to London later this year, we discover in the video) points out, it 'opens up so many possibilities to make meaningful connections in ways you never could before in education, diplomacy, multilingual families and in business'.

The software should be available later this year, although Google and NTT DoCoMo are both working on versions. MT gives it a matter of months before a fish in the ear is a trendy new form of wearable tech...

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