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Google Pixel Bud instant translation launched

In Douglas Adams’ celebrated novel Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it was known as a Babel Fish, a device that simultaneously translated any intergalactic language, even that tricky Vogon tongue. Now global tech giant Google have made that fiction a reality with the Google Pixel Buds, their latest earphones.

The earbuds were released alongside the Pixel 2, Google's new smartphone. Photo: Google

Google’s Pixel Buds were released simultaneously with the Pixel 2, Google's new smartphone

All you have to do is hold down on the right earbud and say, “Help me speak Italian.””

Among their capabilities, including access to Google Assistant, the earphones allow access to Google Translate and a “real-time translation experience”. 

According to the Google blog that accompanies the product launch, the product – available to ship in November – will ‘speak’ 40 languages, and boast a remarkably easy to use interface. 

“All you have to do is hold down on the right earbud and say, “Help me speak Italian.”

As you talk, your Pixel phone’s speaker will play the translation in Italian out loud. When the waiter responds in Italian, you’ll hear the translation through your Pixel Buds. If you’re more of a sushi or French food fan, no need to worry—it works in 40 languages.”

Google’s Pixel Buds were released simultaneously with the Pixel 2, Google’s new smartphone and the only device that the translation facility is currently compatible with.

At the launch the earphone’s capability was demonstrated by a conversation between a native English speaker and a native Swedish speaker. The time delay between the two sides of the discourse was reportedly minimal.

It remains to be seen what the ramifications for language courses will be, although observers have previously given their verdict on Google Translate and highlighted the variable quality of its translations.

Nevertheless, last year’s switch from a statistical machine translation to a neural machine translation machine model has paved the way for Google Translate to take on new languages, and for the Pixel Buds facility to become a tourist staple – at least on this planet – if nothing else.

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