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Microsoft invents universal translator

Boldly making the world more like Star Trek

Microsoft has come up with a voice translation project which appears to have come straight from a Star Trek script.

In a video the company’s chief research officer Rick Rashid speaks before an audience in Tianjin, China, as a computer translator spits out his words in Mandarin in his own voice. This is exactly like the “universal translator” that enabled everyone to hear their native language no matter what dialect was being spoken.

Writing in his bog, Rashid wrote that the results are still not perfect, and there is still much work to be done, but the technology is very promising. He thinks that in a few years we will have systems that can completely break down language barriers. This means that the world might not have to wait until the 22nd century for a usable equivalent of Star Trek’s universal translator.

The technology learns the nuances of an individual’s speech and builds a profile. Using that data, it combines with properties from native Chinese speakers. In the case of Rashid, the system’s profile then took his words, found the Chinese equivalents and reordered them to be grammatically correct Chinese. Klingon is a little harder as it is a bit difficult to translate punch in the face.

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