The last 30 days have brought us more products than we can keep track of from Apple, Amazon and Google (not to mention Sonos’ Alexa integration and Bowers & Wilkins’ intelligent wireless headphones.) One new addition from Google stood out to us. Our Systems Engineer Peter Capalbo posted it to the team calling it “an absolute game-changer.” I have to agree.
Google Pixel Buds work largely the same as Apple’s AirPods (a case that doubles as a charger, voice assistant built right in), but with one unique feature: Pixel Buds have the ability to live translate 40 different languages. By integrating Google Translate powered by machine learning (check out our breakdown of Automation vs AI for an explanation of machine learning) translation can take place with almost no delay at all. Less than a second after the talker finishes Pixel Buds translates it to your native tongue. Hold the right ear bud as you respond and the same speediness delivers a translated response back through the phone’s speaker.
Peter and I sat down to talk about the potential in this kind of technology:
Jordan: What stood out to you the most about the Google Translate integration?
Peter: Well the implications for international trade and relations are huge. The ability to eliminate translators and connect directly really could be a game-changer.
I wonder if this technology will also highlight the need for translators in that they can also translate intent. Not every statement can be fully communicated with a literal translation. If you look at the differences in the way Japan and the U.S. do business, for example, a lot could get lost in translation.
True, but the emotion and tone of looking someone in the eye when you speak to them adds a lot of context.
Whereas speaking to a translator tends to come out in a more neutral tone.
On a personal level, the idea that I could converse freely with my in-laws on South Korea over dinner, without the need for my wife to translate… $160 is nothing for that benefit. You’re big on travel, right?
A huge goal of mine is to take a year off by the time I’m 30 and just go travel. South America and Southeast Asia are goals of mine. Imagine in the next couple of years seeing signs in hotel lobbies for Pixel Bud users, where you can get the information you need quickly and move on. It would absolutely give people more of a sense of security while traveling.
I think the big question is about the delay: Is it really as fast as we saw in the demo? Is it really half a second or less?
They may be faking it until they make it, but Google is probably the most powerful company in the world. They know everything. If anybody’s going to come up with a game-changing technology like this, and do it right, I think it’s Google.
We’ve seen other companies try. There’s an IndieGogo campaign that’s supposed to deliver its product this fall, but it only offers 12 languages. Pixel Buds translates 40 different languages. If they figured out how to eliminate the delay, the implications are going to be amazing.
We’ll follow up with a hands-on review of Pixel Buds with Google Translate once we get our hands on a pair. The 40 different languages covered are:
Afrikaans, Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Latvian, Nepali, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish.