Sci-fi authors have for years talked up an amazing future where language barriers are broken down by instant translators on the fly.
But that could be a step closer to reality after Microsoft announced it is testing real-time translation for its Skype messenger service.
Skype allows people all over the world to chat via video and make calls across pretty much any smart device.
But the firm is attempting to make it possible for speakers of different languages to talk to each other immediately, with no delays in conversation.
The tech will use voice recognition to track users’ speech before running it through a translator and feeding it back to the other recipient.
The concept is currently being tested using English and Spanish translations, but Microsoft hopes to support a range of tongues by the time it is ready to roll out.
Skype Translator Preview currently works on Windows 8.1 and those looking to take part can sign up at Microsoft’s site.