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New and improved Skype offers real-time voice translation

"This is just the beginning of a journey that will transform the way we communicate," Skype said.

By Brooks Hays

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Sometimes it seems like Mac users have all the fun. But on Monday, Microsoft's Skype unveiled a demo of its new translation app. And Translator Preview, which can translate Spanish into English (and vice versa) in near real time, was only made available to Windows 8.1 users.

In addition to translating spoken conversation, the new program preview also features real-time translation of 40-plus instant messaging languages. More languages are expected to be introduced to the live-audio function soon.

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"This is just the beginning of a journey that will transform the way we communicate with people around the world," Skype wrote in a blog post on Monday. "Our long-term goal for speech translation is to translate as many languages as possible on as many platforms as possible."

Marketed as a way to connect school classrooms from all over the world, Skype unveiled its new translation software by having it demoed by two elementary school classrooms -- one in Mexico City and one in Tacoma, Washington. The two classes played a game of "Mystery Skype," whereby each class took turns asking questions to try to determine the other's location.

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For those looking to get in on the action, new and improved versions of the translation app will be shared with those that sign up at Skype's website.

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