Those of you fellow geeks out there probably remember the Babel-Fish from Douglas Adam’s novel The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. When stuck in your ear, this yellow, leech-like fish allows you to comprehend any language spoken. Well, the future is now as Google has released a line of Pixel Buds to help with real time translations for up to 40 languages. These Pixel Buds also come in a variety of colors, such as Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue. We aren’t kidding; these are the actual color names! Nonetheless, the more important part of this story is the communication barrier that these earbuds are going to surpass. Communication incompatibility or having an extensive game of “telephone” with multiple translators will no longer be an issue, because the baseline for global communication has been created and will keep moving forward.
“Ok Google, help me speak,” is the short phrase you say to your Pixel Buds before informing the device what language you want to translate to. To use this technology, a pair of users each must have a Google Smartphone, Pixel Buds, and the Google Translate app. Once ready, one user will speak aloud in their native language aloud. Then the other user holding the Smartphone will receive a repeat of what was said, also in their own native language. Unfortunately, we have yet to know if sarcasm can successfully transcend language barriers. But perhaps I.T. support from overseas might become a bit easier to understand, and at least those scammers pretending to be from Microsoft stand a better chance of success, amirite? More research to come in the future, we suppose.
How are the Pixel Buds different from Google Translate? Well, to start, the Pixel Buds function in real-time. There’s no awkward passing a phone back and fourth between someone to read text on a screen. This innovative product is here to provide the opportunity for real conservations between people of all cultures and act as a tool to break down barriers. In addition, when speaking with Google Translate by itself, it is unable to cancel out any of the background noise or feedback. Pixel Buds will keep up with a normal conversation, while also cancelling out the background noise to focus on the words being translated. Now that’s what we call groovy. Plus, this product is paving the way for others to figure out new solutions or approaches to worldwide communication!
Amazon is taking a run at its own version of the universal translator. They have announced their new application, Amazon Polly, where consumers can pay for a service that turns text into “lifelike” speech. No specifics from the company on what that means, but if it can’t translate our movie references around the office into concrete real-life concepts, as far as we’re concerned it cannot be determined how lifelike the translations may actually sound. We’ll let Reddit sort that out.
What we do know is this – a fabled invention from a novel published 39 years ago has become a reality, and it is going to change the future! So, the time is now to step out of your comfort zone, learn more about the world, and bridge any existing cultural barriers. Better than sticking a fish in your ear.