Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft Translator becomes serious business travel tool with Cortana, offline access

Business professionals can hold conversations in multiple languages on the app.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • The Microsoft Translator app gives you online and offline access to translation services thanks to new updates.
  • Microsoft Translator users can hold conversations in multiple languages through the app.

Microsoft has released updates to its Translator app on Windows 10 after showcasing how it incorporated AI into its translation apps on iOS and Android phones last month.

The Translator app can now connect to Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana, allowing users to start or join a conversation in another language. If a user were to say something along the lines of "Hey Cortana, start a conversation in Translator," the program will respond in a selection of supported languages including German, Chinese Simplified, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Japanese.

"Microsoft Translator has added new capabilities that allow users and developers to get artificial intelligence-powered translations whether or not they have access to the Internet," the company wrote in an April blog post.

The post later added: "When using the Microsoft Translator app, end users can now download free AI-powered offline packs. In addition, through the new Translator app local feature preview, Android developers will be able to quickly and easily integrate online and offline AI text translations into their apps."

SEE: Travel and business expense policy (Tech Pro Research)

The new translator app is ideal for travelers and businesses doing work overseas because of its ability to function without an internet connection. Arul Menezes, head of the Machine Translation team at Microsoft, told TechCrunch last month that the firm put lots of work into making sure the drop off between online and offline translations was barely noticable, adding that they felt the translator app was better than anything offered from one of their main rivals, Google.

"The gap between the neural offline translation and the previous translation quality with our older models is huge," Menezes told TechCrunch.

In addition to the app's offline capabilities, it can also support written translations, so users can write words with a stylus or mouse and get a translation. The app also has a massive phrasebook that gives you access to more than 200 "essential" words and terms. You can add some phrases to a "favorites" list for quicker access, the post noted.

The Translator App is also equipped with a "Live" feature that gives you the ability to hold a conversation in multiple languages at once, an ideal add-on for companies with international clientele.

Microsoft began rolling out its new Translator App features in April after two years of work on it. Originally, the AI-powered translation app could not run without a dedicated AI chip. But, Microsoft was able to optimize the program and bring it to users with any kind of phone.

"Microsoft Translator released AI-powered online neural machine translation (NMT) in 2016. Because of the computing power needed to run these high-quality translation models, this capability was only available online. In the latter part of 2017, this capability was made available on specific Android phones equipped with a dedicated AI chip. It allowed their users to get offline translation quality that was on par with the quality of online neural translation," the post said.

Later adding: "Building on this initial work, the Translator team was able to further optimize these algorithms, allowing them to run directly on any modern device's CPU without the need for a dedicated AI chip."

Microsoft developers say the app's translations are 23% better and the language packs take up 50% less space that they used to.

You can download the app from the Microsoft Store.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/metamorworks

About Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.

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