google translate voicerecognition
Google is following fellow tech giant Microsoft in releasing its own voice translation serviceGetty Images

Google is set to announce an update to its Google Translate app that will automatically recognise a speaker's language and provide a written translation, according to reports.

It will be the second time in as many months that a major tech firm has released a multilingual voice translation service, after Microsoft unveiled its Skype Translator preview program in December.

Skype's tool is currently only available with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, however the New York Times reports that Google's app could incorporate up to 80 languages that are currently available through Google Translate.

The Google Translate app has been installed more than 100 million times on Android phones, according to the search giant, while engineering director of Google Translate Macduff Hughes estimates that there are around half a billion monthly active users across all platforms.

Google has not officially released any details of its voice-recognition translation tool and is yet to respond to a request for comment from IBTimes UK.

Transfer learning

The app is likely to adopt a similar system to the Skype Translator service, which uses deep neural networks to understand and learn words that a speaker uses.

Machine learning allows language barriers to be efficiently overcome, as mistakes are picked up on and learnt from. A process called transfer learning also enables the translator to develop its own language skills.

"The one fascinating feature of this is something called transfer learning," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during a demonstration of Skype's technology last year.

"What happens is, say you teach it English, it learns English. Then you teach it Mandarin, it learns Mandarin but it becomes better at English. And then you teach it Spanish, it gets good at Spanish but it gets great at both Mandarin and English.

"Quite frankly none of us knows exactly why. It's brain-like in the sense of its capabilities to learn. It's magical."