Anyone familiar with "The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy" will know about the Babel fish, the fictional creature that lets aliens of all races communicate in the same language.
Well, one company claims to have made an Earth-based equivalent. Known as the Pilot and developed by Waverly Labs, the technology can apparently translate certain spoken languages into the listener’s language of choice, essentially letting them converse with people in another language. All of the technology is contained in an app, although speakers and listeners use earpieces to communicate.
"Where other smart earpieces in wearable technology are designed for fitness tracking or audio enhancement, we’re committed to bridging language barriers," the company said on its website. "Science fiction has called it many things, but we call it the Pilot."
Now, at this stage, we don’t know how legitimate the device is. At the moment they’ve only released a short concept video of it in action, which you can watch below. We’ve reached out to the company for further clarification on how it works.
What we do know so far is that the device will cost between $249 and $299, although it will be available to pre-order as part of an Indiegogo campaign from May 25 at a reduced price of $129 to $149. The app is scheduled to be released in summer this year, with the earpiece released in spring 2017.
Pilot, available in three colors, will be able to translate between at least four languages at first (English, French, Spanish, and Italian), although there are plans to add more languages in the future. An app is used to toggle between languages.
What we don’t know is how it actually works. Of course, services like Google Translate – which can translate text – are already in existence. But voice translations are a bit more difficult, with Microsoft’s Skype Translator being possibly the most high-profile version.
There are plans for more languages to be added in the future. Waverly Labs
Even that, though, isn’t entirely accurate. So exactly how good Pilot is, and whether it works, remains to be seen. All the company has revealed is that it uses “translation technology,” whatever that means.
In a FAQ on the company’s website, though, they did explain that it requires both people, the speaker and listener, to wear one of the earpieces. But, they add: “Future generations of the earpiece will be updated to listen to EVERYTHING happening around you, not just the person you are talking to.” The technology can also be used purely through the smartphone app too, and it doesn’t require an Internet connection.
So, does it actually do what it says on the tin? Who knows, but the company says they will soon reveal more details in a video blog. Until then, we’ll have to make do with other real-life "Hitchhiker’s Guide" technologies. iPad, anyone?