It's not just science fiction any more: new software from Microsoft Research works like the universal translator from 'Star Trek'. It translates your spoken words into another language, while retaining the accent, timbre and intonation of your voice.
You can watch a demonstration video right here (starting at around the 12-minute mark). The software needs about an hour to learn how you speak in order to model a digital version of your voice. Once that's done, it can translate your spoken words into 26 other languages, while still sounding like it's "you" speaking.
The system works by replacing the software's sound models, like a hard "k" sound or an "ess", with your own voice making those sounds. It then blends those pieces together in a fairly seamless imitation of your voice. The current technology still retains a computerized edge, but it does sound convincingly like the demonstrator's speaking voice, even when his digital version is speaking Mandarin and Spanish.
As Extreme Tech points out, the translation software could theoretically be part of a smart phone's software soon. This could be a boon for people travelling to foreign destinations where they don't speak the language, although it could lead to some pretty one-sided conversations. Microsoft hasn't announced any plans for a commercial rollout of the technology yet.
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