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Pixel Buds: Google Headphones Translate Foreign Languages

Written by Science, Science & Tech, Travel

If you’re a language student with aspirations of becoming an interpreter, I’ve got some bad news for you: Google’s latest creation may well have just made your dream job redundant. That’s because the technology company have unveiled a set of snazzy new wireless headphones that can translate language in real time – and they actually work!

We all know that learning a new language is hard. Very hard. But whilst most countries are quite adept at becoming bilingual, we Brits have never quite got the hang of it. On the whole, the British population are about as bilingual as a troublesome parrot; we have a scattered catalogue of inane phrases, peppered with the odd colourful profanity. But in the end, it’s all useless when it comes to striking up an actual conversation.

Smartphones have offered us a plethora of apps that promise to teach us French in 90 days, Mandarin in our sleep, or Dothraki in five easy steps. But in truth, most either don’t work, or are too bloody time consuming. Google’s new device, however, could be about to make learning a new language something they did back in the old days.

All you need to do to become a master linguist is connect the headphones to your smartphone and you’re ready to go.

The newfangled headphones, called Google Pixel Buds, use translation software to allow users to both listen to and speak in foreign languages. All you need to do to become a master linguist is connect the headphones to your smartphone and you’re ready to go (provided you’ve got a good internet signal and a decent amount of battery).

For listening services, users simply hold down the earbud and the headphones will work their magic and translate another language into your very ears. This feature provides a fantastic opportunity to eavesdrop on all the locals when you’re on holiday, though in all likelihood, you may not actually want to know what’s in that casserole you’re eating.

If you wanted to order four steins of beer and some savoury snacks when you’re in Berlin, just press the earbud and say, “let me speak German”. Sadly, though you won’t be able to instantly speak German, Google Assistant will automatically translate what you say and play it through your smartphone’s speakers.

The Pixel Buds are due to be released in the UK on 22 November and will set you back £159

Anyone who has used Google Translate before may well be having doubts at this point. As useful as the application can be, it’s far from perfect. One only needs to spare a thought for the small Spanish town of As Pontes for proof of that; who, thanks to Google Translate, mistakenly advertised their food festival as a ‘clitoris festival’ – needless to say visitors were a tad disappointed.

But Google says they have progressed their software more in the past 12 months than they have in the previous 10 years. And when they showed off the live language translation feature during an onstage demo in San Francisco it translated an entire conversation from English to Swedish without a hitch.

The Pixel Buds are due to be released in the UK on 22 November and will set you back £159, but you’ll need Google’s new Pixel phone for full functionality.

For those of you hoping you’ll be able to use this new tech to finally understand what all these Geordie folk are saying, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Though the device supports a whopping 40 languages, Geordie twang is well outside of its translation capabilities – you’ll have to stick with Korean Billy on Youtube for now.

Last modified: 22nd October 2017

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