Microsoft’s intelligent mobile phone keyboard SwiftKey translates as you text

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Microsoft Translator, a technology that uses artificial intelligence to provide translations for more than 60 languages, has been integrated with SwiftKey for Android, an intelligent keyboard for mobile devices, Microsoft announced on Thursday.

“We wanted to make it really easy for users to be able to translate as they type and to be able to translate incoming messages,” said Colleen Hall, a senior product manager for SwiftKey in London. Microsoft acquired SwiftKey in 2016.

The real-time translation feature is especially handy in the context of messaging with family, friends and colleagues who speak different languages, she noted. Once users tap the Microsoft Translator icon on the SwiftKey keyboard, the app translates as they type and translates incoming messages that users copy.

“They do not have to leave the keyboard in order to do the translations,” Hall explained.

The app also remembers users’ preferences, eliminating the need to scroll through the full list of the more than 60 available languages to select which languages to translate to and from each time the feature is engaged.

The translation capability is available offline to SwiftKey users who have also downloaded the Microsoft Translator app, enabling translations of emails composed, for example, during an overseas flight on a business trip.

Microsoft Translator is a part of Azure Cognitive Services, a collection of AI algorithms. The translation feature is currently available for users of SwiftKey on Android devices, a user base that data indicates is global and highly multilingual, Microsoft said.

“We have always had a strong multilingual offering,” noted Hall, “and now we are bringing Translator to that as well.”