Skype Translator was one of the coolest pieces of technology to debut last year.
Microsoft unveiled Skype Translator last May — it’s kind of like the babel fish from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” that leech-like creature you stick in your ear that instantly translates any language to your native tongue in real-time.
The preview of Skype Translator was released back in December, but it required all users sign up beforehand, and access was only given to a select few. But on Tuesday, Microsoft removed that requirement, thus allowing anyone using Windows 8.1 or the Windows 10 preview to access the application. Just check out the Windows Store and start downloading.
Skype Translator has a ton of useful features: You can call almost anyone who has Skype, and Translator will translate your conversation into another language in real-time — you’ll hear the speech translated in your native language and you can also read it in a chat box, as Skype provides full on-screen transcripts of your calls. This also works for instant messaging, too.
Calling with Skype Translator currently only works with four languages — English, Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin — but you can instant message people in 50 different languages, including Russian, Dutch, Japanese, and even two versions of Klingon, the fictitious language from “Star Trek.”
Here’s a brief video showing how it all works:
Despite its limitations, Skype Translator will be a vital communications tool once it reaches more platforms like iOS and Android, and supports more languages across the world. Translators play a vital role in the military and foreign policy — in some situations, a translator can be the difference between life and death.
An application like this could certainly help break down the language barriers between many people and ultimately bring the world closer together, but more importantly, it could save lives.