Microsoft’s new speech and hologram tech can make you fluent in any language

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Microsoft unveiled some mind-blowing new hologram technology during their recent Inspire partner conference in Las Vegas, as The Verge reports. Julia White, an executive at Microsoft’s Azure, rolled out the new hologram tech during a keynote speech in which she used Microsoft’s HaloLens to transform herself into a remarkably lifelike hologram. To top it off, the hologram gave the keynote in Japanese, but with White’s own voice and mannerisms.

Microsoft achieved this feat by combining two existing technologies: neural text-to-speech and mixed reality. Microsoft has showcased hologram technology in the past. But the new translation tech bodes well for breaking down barriers in the way humans communicate and interact.

Honing the Hologram

The first step in creating the barrier-busting hologram involved White visiting the software giant’s state-of-the-art Mixed Reality capture studio. There, White captured her mannerisms as she delivered her speech in English.

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Next, Microsoft utilized Azure AI’s neural text-to-speech technology to capture White’s personalized voice signature. After combining the two technologies, White’s hologram can speak in any language using her own voice tones and inflections.

Unfortunately, the tech is still out of reach for many considering the need for a Mixed Reality capture studio and HaloLens. But the future applications in removing the distance and language barriers between speaker and audience are endless.

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As Futurism points out, a world leader could beam themselves right into living rooms around the world and deliver a speech in each household’s native tongue. Or, students around the globe could listen to a renowned professor giving a lecture as if they were sitting in class, and without having to translate.

Keeping It Real

While not every household has a HaloLens yet, the headset costs around $3500 and is still quite bulky, other companies are starting to develop augmented reality display devices that could bring the tech more into the realm of everyday life. In May, Silicon Valley startup Mojo Vision unveiled “the world’s smallest and densest micro display.”

The prototype has a pixel density 300 times more than a current smartphone. To put that in context, Mojo Vision can squeeze 15 pixels inside a red blood cell. While the startup hasn’t disclosed any product information, the tech could lead to augmented reality glasses or contact lenses. These less obtrusive display devices would further remove barriers by allowing users to look more like themselves.

Looking (and sounding) more like herself is exactly what Julie White showed was possible with Microsoft’s new hologram technology. Combine that with smaller and less obtrusive display devices and the reality of mixed reality is really starting to look…well, real.

If this all seems very futuristic, that’s because it is. As White concluded her speech: “All of these technologies exist today. The future is here.”