Article Excerpt: Skype hopes to make its international connections easier — though perhaps still a little awkward — with a new feature that automatically translates conversations almost in real time. Parent company Microsoft unveiled the new technology at the Code technology conference on Tuesday, where Skype vice president Gurdeep Pall made small talk in English with a German-speaking Skype manager in Europe.After saying a sentence in English, an automated voice translated his words into German.
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InterpretAmerica's take: The news of Microsoft's new "translation" tool for Skype has been making the rounds in our industry, and rightfully so. The demo video is one which all those interested in the future of interpreting should take 4 minutes out of their day to watch. It shows two people conversing between English and German, with brief delays for a Siri-like voice recognition to "interpret" between the speakers. Of course, what is really happening is that voice recognition software is capturing what the speakers say, then feeding their words to a machine translation function which converts them into the other language, which is then displayed across the screen in subtitled form as the Siri-like voice says them at the same time. In other words, this is real-time machine translation of spoken content made to resemble a human interpreter as closely as possible, but with no actual human involved in the language transfer. What Skype is unveiling is really no different from Google Interpret or other apps that promise do the same thing. 20 years ago, a "translator" by default referred to a human being. Now, by default, we routinely distinguish between "machine translation" and "human translation." How much longer do we as interpreters have before "machine interpreting" and "human interpreting" also becomes the default distinction, and what will our workplace look like when this becomes daily reality?