Google translate earbuds

5th October 2017

Many of our learners are speak English as a second language, and we thought it might be worth mentioning an interesting demonstration given by Google, at their Pixel event, yesterday.

For many people who have needed to move to the UK (or indeed, any country), possibly with little planning, they are likely to have many difficulties with cultural, and in particular, language.

One of the most effective tools to help people ‘get by’ is using Google translate on a mobile phone to perform real-time translation of text and audio. Whilst only a small upgrade to this technology, the newly announced £160 ear buds from Google appear to mark a dramatic change in the way that this technology could be used in a social interaction setting.

In the words of the Verge:


Since the Google Translate app can translate between 40 different languages — that’s 1,600 combinations — so can Pixel Buds. There’s another pop culture reference to evoke here (the Babel Fish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but translating with Pixel Buds is not that seamless.

You hold your finger down on your ear and say “help me speak French,” and speak a phrase. When you lift your finger, the Translate app speaks and displays your translation. Then the person you’re speaking to holds a button down on your phone and says their reply, which you hear in your ear.

I’m a little dubious that this is any more convenient than just passing your phone back and forth and doing everything there, 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


Dieter Bohn – Technology columnist
All in all, this could lead to some exciting changes in how people interact and how people of different nationalities are treated in society.