The Universal Translator Is Coming!

Foreign Languages Just Got Easier

Have you ever found yourself baffled on vacation, being completely unsure of how to order a meal or ask for directions in a foreign language?

As Douglas Adams said, Don’t Panic. If you’ve ever wished for something like the Babel Fish in Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you may not have to wait much longer.

A new in-ear translation device whose developers claim that it can translate speech will be released soon. Called Pilot, the device includes two earpieces which can be worn be two people who otherwise could not converse – a mobile app handles the translation and transmits it to the users’ respective earpieces. The makers of Pilot, Waverly Labs, say that this is the world’s first “smart earpiece” translation device.

A Waverly Labs spokesperson stated, ‘This little wearable uses translation technology to allow two people to speak different languages but still clearly understand each other.’ At this time, information on exactly how the device works is still sparse. Waverly Labs says only that the device uses app-based “translation technology.”

Translator Video Available

A video demonstrating the device shows the Pilot translating between English and French with a small lag, but only a small one, still allowing the users to converse with relative ease. It appears that this first generation of in-ear translators only work when talking to another Pilot earpiece wearer. Advancing this technology could allow users to receive translations of any speech within range, eliminating the need for pairs of earpieces.

The device works offline, so if you’re worried that you’ll rack up a fortune in data roaming charges, don’t be. The New York-based Waverly Labs says that the two earpieces can also be used by a single user for listening to music or other audio content from a paired mobile device. Andrew Ochoa, the founder of Waverly Labs says that he was inspired to create the Pilot after meeting a French girl and wishing he could converse with her.

Initially, the device will support English, Spanish, Italian and French, with plans in the works for Hindi, Arabic and other languages. Some languages may only be available to users who purchase add-on language packs. Don’t expect perfect translation of every conversation, however; as the video warns, “Every language has various dialects and the earpiece is designed to translate common dialects, although thick accents could disrupt this.”

Waverly Labs plans to crowdfund the device via Indiegogo, where the device can be preordered for $199. The expected retail price for the Pilot will be in the $250 – $300 range.

Pre-orders are currently available.

The devices will ship as soon as this fall or possibly as late spring of 2017. The Pilot will be available in three different colors and includes two earpieces, a portable charger and the Pilot app, which allows users to download languages for the earpieces.

Unsurprisingly, other companies are also poised to get into the wearable translation market. Microsoft UK’s chief envisioning officer Dave Coplin has said that the technology will be sufficiently advanced to provide real time conversation between speakers of different languages within the next five years. Microsoft’s Skype Translator already enables nearly real time translation of voice and video calls in seven different languages; the app also performs translation of instant messaging in more than 50 languages.

Skype Translator

Available since October 2015, Skype Translator records conversation and converts it to text using speech recognition technology, then reading it to the recipient using a text to speech engine. The translator can translate between English, German, Italian, French, Mandarin Chinese and Portuguese, with more languages to come later this year. Microsoft is already working to provide better support for accents, dialects and other linguistic idiosyncrasies, with a program in place to get feedback from users to improve the service.

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