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The Future: Microsoft Is Developing a Universal Translator

Okay, it’s officially the future. Or at least, it’s officially that much closer to Star Trek. According to MIT’s Technology Review, Microsoft research scientist Frank Soong has developed software that can translate any spoken or written text into another language, with the speaker’s voice remaining intact and recognizable — no robot voices here. “The word is just one part of what a person is saying,” says Shrikanth Narayanan, a USC professor working on a similar project, “Preserving voice, preserving intonation, those things matter, and this project clearly knows that. Our systems need to capture the expression a person is trying to convey, who they are, and how they’re saying it.”

Of course, a product like this could have lots of practical applications beyond just epic awesomeness. “For a monolingual speaker traveling in a foreign country, we’ll do speech recognition followed by translation, followed by the final text to speech output [in] a different language, but still in his own voice,” said Soong. Or, if after this technology is common anyone actually has the discipline to learn a new language for themselves, the software could also be used as a teaching tool, with the rationale that phrases heard in one’s own voice might be easier to learn. Sounds like a win win to us. [via The Mary Sue]