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Microsoft Shows Off Adaptive, Multilingual Text to Speech System 171

MrSeb writes about a really cool project from Microsoft's speech research group. From the article: "Microsoft Research has shown off software that translates your spoken words into another language while preserving the accent, timbre, and intonation of your actual voice. In a demo of the prototype software, Rick Rashid, Microsoft's chief research officer, said a long sentence in English, and then had it translated into Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin. You can definitely hear an edge of digitized 'Microsoft Sam,' but overall it's remarkable how the three translations still sound just like Rashid. The translation requires an hour of training, but after that there's no reason why it couldn't be run in real time on a smartphone, or near-real-time with a cloud backend. Imagine this tech in a two-way setup. You speak into your smartphone, and it comes out in their language. Then, the person you're talking to speaks into your smartphone and their voice comes out in your language." The Techfest 2012 keynote has a demo of the technology around minute 13:00.
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Microsoft Shows Off Adaptive, Multilingual Text to Speech System

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:01PM (#39335073)

    This technology will hopefully render learning a language obsolete. It's a stupid high school and college requirement. People have the idea that it makes them more worldly, but the world is a huge fucking place with more than your native language and one other language. I never learned a second language, because I saw what a waste it was. I am almost never in a situation where someone else doesn't speak English, even if it's not their native langauge, and it has limited business use since speaking German has little value if you're in Spain, Russia, Africa, Japan, China, Brazil, France, or Iceland.

    Not that I'm some kind of xenophobe. I just don't see the payoff after spending 4-8years of your life learning one language (especially since almost everyone I know who studied a language in high school and maybe college forgot it by the time they turned 30).

  • by theNAM666 ( 179776 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:21PM (#39335213)

    1) The translations aren't semantically equivalent (as pointed out by commenters above above). I can already say "Ich bin ein dummer Amerikaner" in my own voice, without machine help. If the meaning isn't there, who cares?

    2) The machine accent ain't that great, either.

    All of this makes me think this is still somewhat of a pipe dream. The AI guys have been selling the idea of machine translation for years and years-- at least since the 50s, when it was promised to eliminate the need for trained State Department linguists. It's never emerged because it's still a hard problem. Even Google's translate, which beats the MS stuff by some yards, produces results which range from awkward phrasing to just plain inaccurate and misleading.

    He's selling a great idea, but it's kind of like the Fountain of Youth. It ain't there, vaporware.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong