Microsoft has unveiled a new technology for Skype that will help you talk to people who speak a different language. Skype Translator uses voice recognition and translates foreign languages in real time so you can understand what is being said at the other end of a video call.

It might sound futuristic and something you're more likely to see in Star Trek, but a beta version of the software will be launched this year.

The technology is the result of decades of work by Microsoft and the industry at large and it is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams.

The "pre-beta of magic", as it was called by the corporate vice president of Skype, Gurdeep Pall, was demonstrated last night at the inaugural Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. In the demo, a Microsoft employee speaking German spoke to the English speaking Pall. The translation was spoken aloud and appeared in text form.

Some of the words weren't quite right, but for an early pre-beta it was pretty impressive.

It will be made available to Skype users before the end of 2014 as a Windows 8 beta app.