Microsoft's 'Group Transcribe' debuts... on the iPhone

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A little science fiction, perhaps, but it's here and from Microsoft on mobile. No, not on Windows 10 Mobile, not even on Android, but on the iPhone (iOS) first. Picture a group of people standing around talking but not all with a common language. Each holds out their iPhone and voice conversations are handled and translated - and transcribed, for posterity - in real time for all participants. 

Here's the Microsoft Garage tweet:

And from the launch blog post:

To use the app, conversation participants start a shared session and each leverage their phone’s microphone to capture a highly accurate transcript, showing who said what in real-time. With confidence in the high-quality record of the conversation, users can skip note-taking and focus their attention on the conversation itself. Transcripts are easy to share or relocate after the fact.

Users can also leverage the real-time transcription to speak across different languages and make meetings more inclusive. The app supports several languages in over 80 locales and enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or non-native speakers to participate more fully by following along with the live transcript.

The Group Transcribe team collectively speaks over a dozen languages and dialects, and team members are passionate about connecting people across different cultures. “This can be a fantastic tool for communication. What I would love to see is for this to break down barriers for people speaking across multiple languages,” shares Franklin Munoz Principal Development Lead and one of the lead engineers who built the project.

An image of 5 Group Transcribe screenshots

Group Transcribe provides high-quality, real-time transcription and translation.

  • Start a conversation from your phone and easily invite others to join*
  • Stay focused without taking notes or pushing-to-talk
  • Follow along with the conversation in real-time in your preferred language
  • Automatically save the transcript after each session
  • Browse and view previous transcripts from your home screen
  • Easily share transcripts with others
  • Supports languages in 80+ locales

Group Transcribe is specifically designed around in-person meetings, though there's a nod to social distancing in that it should work best with a metre or two between each person in the group, to allow some audio separation.

It supports languages "spoken in 80+ locales including: Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Cantonese, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Latvian, Maltese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Slovak, Slovenian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and more."

In other words, it's built on Microsoft's existing Translator system, available through most of Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile's existence and probably installed on your Lumia right now - though speech support lapsed a year or so ago. Availability and speech support is good on iOS and Android - Group Transcribe doesn't need Translator installed, though clearly the back-end (server) is the same.

I can't quite imagine this in casual action in real life - i.e. in the street or around the office, it's too much work to set up for ad-hoc conversations. However, I can see a place for this in a workplace meeting, perhaps with attendees from other countries and speaking other languages. Ah yes, remember the pre-Covid-19 days when people used to fly across the world for an important meeting? 

Source / Credit: Twitter