Google's New Headphones Could Let You Speak Almost Any Language Immediately


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


Imagine a world where you could speak or understand any language without needing to learn it. That’s a future Google has promised with its new Pixel Buds.

They were revealed yesterday at an event in San Francisco, where Google also unveiled its new Pixel 2 phone, an update to the Google Home device, and more.


The Pixel Buds, though, really grabbed our attention. For anyone that’s read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, they’ll obviously immediately elicit thoughts of the Babel Fish, which when put into a person’s ear allows any language to be understood, in real time.

Well, this is kind of the same. These wireless headphones, not too dissimilar to Apple’s Air Pods, sit in your ear. They are attached to each other by a wire, and have a touch panel on the front of them.

According to Google, the Pixel Buds can translate 40 languages using Google's existing Google Translate technology. You just need to hold the right earbud and say, for example, “help me speak French”. When you next speak, the Buds will then play the translation out loud in French. If someone speaks to you in French, the Buds will play you the translation in your ear.

“It’s like you’ve got your own personal translator with you everywhere you go,” Google said in blog post. In a demonstration, the technology had almost no lag, and seemed to pick up the audio with ease.


This might sound like magic, but Google Translate is already pretty well established (if not always completely accurate). It makes sense, therefore, that Google apply this technology on the fly to audio – although that might not be music to the ears of some start-ups promising similar technology.

Compared to its other big reveals, Google was pretty nonchalant about this one. But it could be incredible. Imagine being able to go to any country and speak their language. Not bad.

Google is not the first to offer this technology. Skype and a start-up called Pilot both touted speech translations. But the Pixel Buds stand apart as being real-time, accurate, and affordable. They will retail for just $159. They’ll start going on sale in November – and might just change the world. A bit.


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