New Google ear buds offer real-time translation of spoken conversations


Google on Wednesday introduced new Pixel ear buds that the company says are capable of real-time translation of conversations in different languages.

A demonstration given as Google unveiled a host of new products infused with its digital Assistant smarts got people playfully referring to Pixel Buds as an internet-Age version of the alien “Babel Fish” depicted in famed science fiction work “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

In the literature, inserting a Babel Fish in an ear enabled a person to understand anything spoken in any language.

Pixel Buds, synced to freshly introduced second-generation Pixel smartphones, promise real-time translations of conversations involving any of 40 languages.

However, on Android phones, the Google Assistant currently is available in only five languages: English, French, German, Japanese and Portuguese. There are five variants of English (U.S., U.K., Canadian, Australian and Indian), two of French (including Quebecois) and two of Portuguese (including Brazilian Portuguese). Google says more languages are coming soon, such as Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Korean, Norwegian and Polish.

A demonstration at the event included a two-way conversation with one person speaking English and the other Swedish.

“That was one of the best tech demos I’ve seen in a long time,” said Current Analysis consumer devices research director Avi Greengart.

“If it works like that in the real world, that is a ‘Wow, we are living in the future’ moment.”

VentureBeat reporter Dean Takahashi reacted to the demo by firing off a tweet saying, “The Babel Fish is here.”

Pixel Buds were priced at $159 and will be available in the U.S. beginning in November.

Ear buds can be controlled with touches, swipes or spoken commands, allowing users to perform functions such as selecting music, sending texts and getting directions, a demonstration showed.

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