WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The combination of universal translators and holograms opens up a whole new world of communication for us all as Microsoft demonstrates
Recently I had the pleasure of working on Microsoft’s annual Artificial Intelligence (AI) thought paper, but AI isn’t the only technology on the company’s mind after they recently showed off their latest HoloLens hologram technology capable of transforming someone into a digital clone of themselves speaking another language – awesome! And I want one – I can imagine boring people with my keynotes now not just in one language but hundreds! The software giant unveiled the technology during a keynote at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference in Las Vegas. Microsoft also added that they’d recently scanned Julia White, a company executive for Azure, at a Microsoft Mixed Reality capture studio to transform her into an exact hologram replica, in something that I guess is just another normal day at the office for her… anyway, back to the story.
As you can see from the video the digital version of Julia appeared onstage to translate her keynote into Japanese. In order to pull off the trickery Microsoft used its Azure’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) cloud tech and Natural Language Translation (NLP) Text-to-Speech synthesis engine that worked by taking recordings of White’s voice, so as to create a personalised voice signature, and then make it sound as though she was speaking Japanese.
See it in action
Microsoft has shown off holograms of people before, but the translation aspect is a step beyond what’s been possible with HoloLens. This looks like it’s just a demonstration for now, and you’d need access to a Mixed Reality capture studio to even start to take advantage of this. Microsoft’s studios are equipped with lighting rigs and high-resolution cameras to capture a fully accurate digital hologram of someone, which isn’t something that can be done easily at home with a smartphone – just yet although that’s something that Samsung is working on with its only slightly less awesome Video to Video to VR tech.
Still, Microsoft’s demonstration is certainly impressive and it speaks to the company’s ambitions with Azure, HoloLens, and beyond. The HoloLens 2 might be targeted at businesses for now, but Microsoft is obviously attempting to build software and services that will scale to wherever augmented reality and mixed reality might end up heading.