At an event unveiling several new Google products on Wednesday, the search engine giant revealed one of its coolest new products yet: Google’s innovative Pixel Buds can translate up to 40 languages in real time for its wearers. Yep, they’re the real-life, modern version of a Babel fish, and that’s not even all they can do.
The wireless earbuds work by connecting to their user’s phone and accessing Google Assistant, which can then use Google Translate to listen to and translate foreign languages. To access Google Assistant, all you have to do is touch and hold the right earbud and say, “Help me speak Spanish.” (Of course, you could also request French or Swedish or Thai.) The earbuds will then listen and translate Spanish words into English for you (using your earbuds), and translate your English sentences into Spanish (through your phone’s speaker).
Users haven’t been able to report how accurate the earbuds’ translation skills are, but a demonstration that took place at an event in San Francisco reportedly showed the Pixel Buds absolutely nailing a Swedish-to-English conversation. And even if the earbuds end up hitting a few snags (after all, Google Translate has come up with some rather creative results for me in the past), they’re bound to be a better, faster alternative than frantically typing a needed translation into Google.
Sean Hollister, an editor from CNET, also gave a quick demonstration of the earbuds. In this video, he has a conversation in English and Japanese.
The Google Pixel Buds’ ability to access Google Assistant means you can also just press an earbud and request workout music, tell the digital assistant to send a text to a friend, or ask, “How long will it take me to get to work?”
The Pixel Buds will be available for purchase in November, and they come with their very own charging case in three different colors (Just Black, Clearly White and Kinda Blue). According to Google, a single charge will fuel the earbuds for about five hours, and each Pixel Bud set will retail at $159. Sign up online to join the waiting list.
More translation technology
As more people travel the globe, the need for translation technology continues to grow. Many software packages, smartphone apps and gadgets are already on the market or in the works. If you just can’t wait to get your hands on this multi-lingual tech, here are a few additional suggestions.
Another Google product already has millions of users. Google Translate offers the ability to converse in/translate up to 103 languages. It’s a free app you can download from the iTunes store or Google Play.
Fluent in 80 languages, the soon-to-be released Travis device uses artificial intelligence to instantly translate for the user. The inventor raised funds on Indiegogo and started shipping the new device in late September.
Sometimes you need translations for the written word. WorldPenScan X uses Bluetooth connectivity to take scanned words and send them to your smartphone. Within moments, you get a translation of the document in the palm of your hand. The device costs in the $100 range, depending on what online retailer you use.
TripLingo is a free smartphone app that can be used on Apple and Android devices. A few of the app’s functions include:
- Over 2,000 phrases per language in 13 languages
- More than 30,000 professionally recorded audio files
- An instant voice translator in 19 languages
- Access to a live human translator (~$3/minute)
- A 10,000 word offline dictionary
- Audio lessons
- An intelligent tip calculator & currency converter
- Built-in flashcards and a quiz mode to help you learn
- A “culture crash course” to get familiar with local customs and etiquette
- A “Wi-fi Dialer” that allows you to call any U.S. phone number
Some of these features do require and a fee, so make sure to double check for prices before purchasing any new features.