(New Scientist) It’ll have language teachers the world over ripping up their vocab books: near-real-time speech conversion from one language to another has just become a reality. Microsoft Research has demonstrated not only how to convert spoken English into Mandarin with just a few seconds’ delay – but also how to output that Mandarin speech in the vocal style of the original speaker. The technology was demonstrated by Microsoft’s research chief Rick Rashid in Tjianjin, China, on 25 October – but the news has taken a while to trickle out.
Rashid spoke just eight English sentences into the lab’s new speech-recognition, translation and generation system, yet the company reports the Mandarin output wowed a crowd of 2000 students and academics (jump to 7:30 in the video above to hear the output).
The system’s advanced capability stems from a blizzard of improvements at all stages of the speech-to-speech process.