Technology

Google’s new earbuds will allow you to ‘speak’ in 40 languages, company says

Google's Isabelle Olsson and Juston Payne give a demonstration of translating languages through Google Pixel Buds at a Google event Wednesday at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco.
Google's Isabelle Olsson and Juston Payne give a demonstration of translating languages through Google Pixel Buds at a Google event Wednesday at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco. AP

Google announced that it will make its own earbuds to rival its competitors, and the tech giant says the buds allow wearers to “speak” in 40 languages.

The earbuds — which aren’t wireless but wrap around the neck — are called Pixel Buds and were among a new line of products presented Wednesday at a company event.

The Buds will compete with Apple’s wireless earbuds — the AirPods. Both companies have priced their buds exactly the same — $159, according to The Verge.

But only Google is claiming to make its wearers multilingual in real time and at the touch of a button.

The buds work like this, according to The Verge: The wearer taps and holds a button on the Pixel Buds and speaks to Google Assistant, according to CNBC. Google Assistant is the company’s version of Siri.

The speech is then translated by Google’s Pixel phone, which then delivers the message in the language selected through the phone’s speakers.

Some expressed skepticism that the translation feature will work as efficiently and quickly as promised.

“(It’s) an idea that’s often promised but almost never delivered in this form factor by tech companies big and small,” Sean O’Kane said in The Verge.

Dieter Bohn, also writing in The Verge, tested the new tech for his story and wrote that translating with Pixel Buds is “not that seamless.”

“I’m a little dubious that this is any more convenient than just passing your phone back and forth and doing everything there (with the Google Translate app),” he wrote, “but it worked really well in the demo: a fairly natural voice in my ear translated what the other person said. It’s not quite in real time, but it’s very fast.”

Others, like Sarah Rense writing in Esquire, held lofty hope for the proposed translation feature while still maintaining a degree of skepticism.

“This is some seriously sci-fi stuff. If you want to carry on a conversation with a Swedish person, for example, you could direct Google Assistant to audibly translate an English phrase into Swedish,” she wrote. “If the translation capability functions as advertised, it could fundamentally change how humans communicate with each other across the globe.”

Many others shared their thoughts on social media. References abounded to the mythical Babel Fish, a translation tool that allows you to “instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language,” as told in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a world-hopping sci-fi novel.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

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