After spending just over nine months in beta, Microsoft is today pushing out its Skype Translator feature to users worldwide. Given the scale of a service like Skype, though, it's going to take a couple of weeks before all users will be able to take advantage of it. We'd assume that those who participated in the preview will have immediate access.
Skype Translator is Microsoft's effort to bring people together all over the world, regardless of their language. As it stands today, over 50 written languages are supported as well as 6 spoken languages (English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, and Spanish). That's a great start, and one that Microsoft says was possible entirely due to the great help it received during the feature's beta period.
With the feature active, you'll be able to set the native language over the person you're talking to, and whenever the globe to the top-right (seen in the shot above) is highlighted, it means that the service is active. As you or the recipient talks or writes, Skype will automatically translate for you, and kindly keep the original text so that you can still see it if you want to (which would be useful if you were trying to learn the person's language).
Microsoft has released a simple video to show users how to take advantage of the translator feature:
This feature is made possible through machine-learning, which means that as more and more people take advantage of it, the smarter and more accurate it will become. Ever paste a translated phrase to someone who speaks the native language? You've no doubt encountered small niggles with it. I've personally experienced this with Mandarin, so I am looking forward to seeing what will become possible once Microsoft is able to obtain a lot of data.
It could be that in time, your English text will perfectly recreate itself in Mandarin or any other language, without you having to second-guess it. That sounds incredible.