When Microsoft this week released the first insight into the Skype Translator, it got us thinking here at FTE about how it could be used by airlines, airports and industry suppliers to help improve multi-lingual customer service.
The innovative new tool, which is being jointly developed by Skype and Microsoft Research teams, combines voice IM technologies with Microsoft translator and neural-network-based speech recognition to deliver near-real-time cross-language communication. In other words, two people can have a near-real-time Skype video conversation with one another even if they don’t speak the same language.
Being such an international business, the travel industry could surely make use of this development, which will be available as a Windows beta app before the end of 2014.
Take Munich Airport’s InfoGates or the Faceport kiosk, for instance, which make use of videoconferencing and telepresence technology to enable video-based communication between a passenger and an offsite agent. If this new real-time speech translation technology was to be integrated, every single passenger would be able to interact with the agents in their native tongue, without having to worry about potential language barriers. No doubt, the integration of the two products is easier said than done, but we’re sure the industry has enough talent to make this a reality.
Alternatively, before travelling, if a passenger had any questions or concerns about their upcoming trip, rather than searching online or phoning a call centre (and provided they have an Internet connection), they could instead have a Skype call with an airline or airport agent, regardless of which language they speak.
Simplifying the travel experience for passengers of various nationalities is a task that has previously been tackled by offering multi-lingual signage and text translation apps, but the Skype Translator may provide an ideal tool to help airlines and airports take their multi-lingual customer service to the next level.