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Microsoft shows off Skype translator Lookout ‘thefties’ nab selfies of smartphone

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, California, May 28, (Agencies): Microsoft Corp showed off a test version of a real-time, spoken-word translation service for Skype calls on Tuesday, the first time the world’s largest software company has demonstrated the breakthrough technology publicly in the United States. Skype Translator, as it is currently called, allows speakers in different languages to hear the other’s words spoken in their own language, according to a demo introduced by Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella at the Code Conference technology gathering in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. “It is going to make sure you can communicate with anybody without language barriers,” said Nadella, who took over as Microsoft CEO in February and is keen to re-establish the company as a technology leader after a decade of slipping behind Apple Inc and Google Inc in mobile computing.

Nadella described the underlying technology as “magical,” but said the task now was turn it into a real product rather than just a research project, promising it would launch by the end of the year. He did not say if it would be a free add-on for Skype users or a paid extra. Immediate reaction to the demo, featuring an English-speaking Microsoft executive chatting with a German counterpart, was mixed. One German-speaking audience member said the translation was good enough for vacation, but not for business. The new technology, which Microsoft demoed in a rougher form 18 months ago in China, could represent a significant feature for its Skype online chat service, which boasts hundreds of millions of users. It is an advance on Microsoft’s current translation features that only work with written words on its Bing search engine and Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft has been working hard on speech recognition technology for years. Earlier this year it showed off Cortana, its voice-activated “personal assistant” designed to rival Apple’s Siri.

Mobile security startup Lookout is turning smartphones and tablets against gadget thieves with a new feature that — when possible — will snap a picture of the culprit. A new theft alert function added Wednesday to Lookout’s premium service for Apple and Android mobile devices sets out to pinpoint where a gadget might be and, in some cases, even take the thief’s picture. “We are not providing this information for you to go out and find the device yourself,” Lookout product manager Greg Lou told AFP. “It is so you can give it to the police so they can find it for you.” A premium version of Lookout costing $3 a month or $30 annually already provides features such as backing up data and finding lost phones.

The new capability lets users tell smartphones to fire off theft alerts if anyone botches a lock-screen code, turns the gadget off, pulls a SIM card, or puts the device in ‘airplane’ mode to block network connections.
On Android devices, theft alerts will signal front-facing cameras to snap photos in the hope of capturing images of culprits. The capability referred to by Lookout as taking a “theftie” is not available on Apple devices because the operating system won’t allow it, according to Lou. Emails that include maps of the location of stolen devices are fired off to owners. In the case of Android, the emails include copies of “thefties” taken with front-facing cameras. “Phone theft is becoming a really big problem,” Lou said. Lookout launched in 2007 and reports that 55 million people worldwide use its mobile security software, a version of which is free.

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