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Microsoft PowerPoint’s new trick: Real-time language translation

Microsoft PowerPoint might not have a reputation for cutting-edge innovation, but a new capability shown today at the company’s Build developer conference in Seattle might start to change that impression.

The last section of Microsoft’s Build 2017 keynote this morning featured Harry Shum, the company’s AI and research chief, showing company’s latest artificial intelligence capabilities for developers, including new cognitive services for custom search, vision, decision-making and video indexing.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was a new Presentation Translator add-in for Microsoft PowerPoint that uses the company’s Translation APIs to embed real-time transcripts, translated into the language of the viewer’s choice, inside PowerPoint presentations.

Yina Arenas, a principal program manager on the Office team, showed the Presentation Translator add-in on stage, speaking in Spanish and showing a translation into English and Mandarin subtitles. “Artificial intelligence can eliminate linguistic barriers between presenters and attendees,” she said, according to the real-time translation. “What you’re seeing is real and a great demonstration of artificial intelligence.”

Shum also tried the demo in Mandarin, although it took a few tries for the system to understand him saying, “AI is fantastic.”

Watch the demo above, and sign up for an invite to use the add-in here. It only works on PowerPoint for Windows for now.

Special note: All Build conference attendees in Seattle this week receive a special 15% discount to the inaugural GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, taking place in Bellevue, Wash. on June 7th, and featuring speakers such as Microsoft Azure chief Scott Guthrie; Docker COO Scott Johnston; Cloud Foundry executive director Abby Kearns, Kubernetes co-creator Joe Beda and many others. Use the code Build15 when registering on the event site here.

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