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A Major Mystery Behind Microsoft's 'brain-Like' Speech-to-Speech Translator

By Network World

May 29, 2014

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New speech-to-speech translation technology from Microsoft becomes better at learning a language as it learns additional languages. For example, when the technology learns English and is then taught Mandarin, it becomes better at English, and it will become even better at both languages when it is taught Spanish.

No one knows why the technology is brain-like in the sense of its capacity to learn, notes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who introduced Skype Translate at the recent Code Conference. Skype Translate is powered by a process that is a mix of speech recognition, machine translation, and speech synthesis. "It's not just about daisy-chaining these three technologies and bringing it together," Nadella says. "In fact, it's this deep neural net that you build that synthesizes a model to be able to do speech recognition."

He says Microsoft will have more details closer to the beta test about how many languages Skype Translate will support and how it becomes aware of what languages it is dealing with in each conversation.

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