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App will continue to be free for consumer use

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is racing Google Inc. (GOOG) to have the platform with the best voice translation.  And it appears that at long last, the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator has almost been made a reality.
Just weeks ago, Quest Visual -- whose app "Word Lens" offer real-time translation via a smartphone camera of Spanish printed signage -- was acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum.  Google said it will continue to support the standalone app for Android and its rival Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iOS for now, but that ongoing development will shift to tightly-integrated, platform-exclusive features integrated into Android OS, Chrome OS, and Google's web API.

Word Lens acquired
There are currently a number of apps claiming real-time voice translation on Android; virtually all of them use the Google Translate API.
On Google and Windows Phone, there's the third party "iTranslate" app that includes the feature iTranslate AirTranslate (it offers real-time translation of phone calls to a speaker of a different language).
iTranslate is well established, calling itself the "most used" iOS translation app.  But it will soon have some tough competition.
Microsoft announced this week at the inaugural Code Conference (#CodeCon) in Rancho Palo Verdes, Calif. that a beta of Skype was coming with real-time translation by the end of 2014.  In a TechNet blog Microsoft writes:

The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition. Skype Translator is a great example of why Microsoft invests in basic research. We’ve invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they’re emerging as important components in this more personal computing era.

The company also revealed that Skype -- an integral core app in both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 -- now has 300 million monthly active users.
When Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5B USD in cash back in May 2011, most felt it had goofed, overvaluing the video chat/calling service.  At the time Skype had 663 million registered users, 145 million of which used the service on a monthly basis.  The service only had 8.8 paying customers, who paid a monthly fee to access certain premium features.
In retrospect that valuation wasn't all that bad, given that Facebook, Inc. (FB) recently paid $19B USD for WhatsApp, a service that boasted 450 million active monthly users last year.

Source: TechNet

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RE: Pretty awesome
By tayb on 5/28/2014 1:00:52 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure this can be accomplished without offloading the calculations to a server elsewhere. It needs to listen to what you have said, understand it, translate it, and then display it on the other side. Our mobile phones are getting incredibly fast but the size of the database and processing power necessary to make this happen is probably enormous. I don't think even in five years we will be able to make this sort of this possible offline. Maybe so, but I am skeptical.

RE: Pretty awesome
By Labotomizer on 5/28/2014 1:13:54 PM , Rating: 2
Backend processing will be key. Hence the importance of MS building out Azure, for not just this but a myriad of other things. Offload additional SQL processing to the cloud, etc. That's also why connectivity is important for this to work correctly. Although that's a given since it's Skype haha

RE: Pretty awesome
By JDHammer on 5/28/2014 1:15:16 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it be nice if it translated voice to text / visually translated signlanguage to voice / text =D

RE: Pretty awesome
By tayb on 5/28/2014 1:28:56 PM , Rating: 2
Right. I was thinking along the lines of in-person communication. I know Google Translate has the "conversation mode" for when you are in a foreign country. I was envisioning something like that but using Skype back-end. Of course you are right about Skype being online!

RE: Pretty awesome
By NellyFromMA on 5/29/2014 1:22:25 PM , Rating: 2
Almost all app-payloads are delivered this way, although most end-users have no idea, which they shouldn't if done properly.

The app is almost always best treated as a basic front-end functionality-wise, leaving all the heavy-lifting to the back-end. Of course, app requirements dictate which approach you end up taking, but at least 9/10 apps require backend services for full functionality.

The only real exception are when there is a need for low-level functionality such as graphics, when latency is unacceptable, or when off-line support is required.

Failure to shift those work-loads onto servers generally means slower execution and/or worse battery life.

Depending on app requirements, slow execution can be acceptable (or even unavoidable) but the battery life issue is a hard one when requirements dictate a long battery life (workers in the field, for example).

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