Microsoft researchers are one step closer to making the Babel Fish from Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” a reality – minus the fish.
The team demonstrated the software, which learns the sound of your voice and uses it to speak in another chosen language.
The potential in this is to make language learning software more personal, or to make tools for business or casual travelers.
Microsoft research scientist Frank Soong showed off his software, which could immediately read out text in Spanish using the voice of Rick Rashid, Chief Research Officer at Microsoft . In a separate demonstration, Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, was given the ability to speak Mandarin using the same software.
Check out the really cool demo that took place in Redmond for Techfest 2012 here.
(The demo starts at around the 12th minute)
The new software can also be used to help people learn a language by hearing foreign phrases in a their own voice. Frank also demonstrated how the system could allow a synthetic English voice on a navigational phone app read out text written on Chinese road signs as it relayed instructions for a route in Beijing.
While it is still in training mode, it’s exciting to imagine how powerful this piece of technology could be when integrated with smartphones. No matter which part of the world you may be, you will potentially never be lost in translation again!