Google’s new Pixel Buds go beyond your average headphones and will translate into 40 different languages in real time. Pixel Buds are more than meets the eye. (Photo from Google)


Babel Fish a reality?


Many thought Apple reinvented ear-buds, or were just crazy, with Air Pods. But once again, Google has blown them out of the water with their new ear-buds for the upcoming Pixel 2. The company unveiled the updated phone along with the new headphones at the Pixel 2 event this week. While they showed off a lot of updated tech, it was their new wireless headphones that stole the show.


What makes Pixel Buds different from your average Bluetooth headphones? The ability to translate 40 different languages in real time. Once the headphones are paired with the smartphone, you tap on the right earpiece and issue a command to Google Assistant. Along with playing music, providing directions, and making a call, you can tell it to “help me speak Japanese” and start speaking in English. The phone’s speakers will play your translated words as you speak them, which you’ll hear via the ear-buds.


Adam Champy, Google’s product manager, described it as having a personal translator everywhere you go. During their demonstration, there wasn’t any lag time when it came to translating. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how this holds up once placed in the real world with background noise, weak WiFi connections, and crosstalk.


Google uses a similar method for its Translate app. Once you activate the live mic, the app will listen to your sentence in English and translate what you just said in 40 different languages. Other companies have similar technology, like Skype’s Live Translation feature, which works with four languages in spoken audio and 50 over IM. However, these translations aren’t necessarily in real-time since there’s a lag between when the original message was sent and when the translation arrives. 


Google’s Pixel Buds sound truly amazing. Imagine the possibilities when traveling around the world. The headphones will allow you to hold a natural conversation. You won’t have to rely on translation websites, which are spotty at best or carry around language dictionaries. No more awkward moments filled with hand gestures and cringe-worthy mispronunciations. It may even replace popular language learning tools, like Rosetta Stone.


Pixel Buds come out in November and will cost $159.


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