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Microsoft took speech recognition and language translation to a new level with new software that promises not only to translate speech in real time but to do it in the speaker's voice.
The software giant demonstrated the software, dubbed Monolingual TTS (Text-to-Speech), at its TechFest 2012 event last week, tech site PC World reported.
"Like other translators, the software developed by Microsoft Research allows you to talk to it in your native tongue and send it out the speaker of a device as another language -- Spanish, French, Chinese, or such. What comes out of that speaker, though, isn't the ersatz speech of a computer robot, but an ersatz approximation of what you sound like," it said.
It added the software will even create a 3D image of the speaker's head "that makes it look as if you're speaking the translation."
Monolingual TTS currently has 26 languages in its repertoire, the PC World report said.
However, it said acquainting the system with a voice may take more time than it does in a typical speech recognition program.
Users may need about an hour of training Monolingual TTS in their vocal tones.
If the application can be adapted into a smartphone, it would be a boon to international travelers, PC World said.
Microsoft's vision is to use lifelike virtual avatars that not only mimic the speaker's looks but also his or her voice and the movements of his or her lips when he or she speaks.
But it is not the only company into speech-based translation: Search giant Google has a widely-used online text-based translator.
"Google's approach is to enable you to speak into a device in your native tongue and have the device turn your speech into the language you want and send it out its speaker in a synthetic voice," PC World said.
The person one is speaking to can then answer in their native language, which one's device will translate into one's language.
PC World noted Google presently offers a free app, Translate, for its Android operating system that has a conversation mode.
However, the results at present may be less than perfect.
On the other hand, Apple Inc.'s Siri voice app does not natively support the task, although jailbroken iPhone 4S devices can run an app called Lingual which allows one to say something in your native language and Siri will display it on the iPhone's screen in one of 30 languages. — TJD, GMA News