Google has finally achieved what science fiction novels (and various fundraiser campaigns) have been promising us for years: a universal translator which could close linguistic barriers between nations.
The Californian search firm has developed a pair of wireless headphones that it claims can translate up to 40 different languages "in real-time" – and even help you come up with a response.
Their "Pixel Buds" work much in the same way as Babel Fish from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (it can decode speech and allow users to understand non-native languages).
All you need to do is touch and hold the right earbud to activate Google Assistant, which is available on their latest smartphone. Google Translate will then offer up a somewhat coherent translation of whatever it hears "in real-time" – or at least, fast enough to hold a conversation, the website states.
This is sci-fi level stuff made real. Love it. https://t.co/m1F8IrrfXq— James Ball (@jamesrbuk) October 5, 2017
In a short demonstration at the launch event in San Francisco, the "Buds" are seen to provide a near-instantaneous translation from Swedish to English. But we're unsure how well this would hold up in the real world.
The translation is currently processed at Google's artificial intelligence-focused data centers, where the audio is first converted to text, translated, and then turned back into speech, Quartz reports.
As senior vice president of hardware, Rick Osterloh, writes: "You'll get elegant touch controls that put the Assistant just a tap away and they'll even help you communicate in a different language."
This is one of those technological advances which has no downsides and will make the world a better place https://t.co/MWEB3kXYRR— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) October 5, 2017
Google's "Pixel Buds" are designed for use with their Pixel 2 smartphone, which was unveiled at the conference this Wednesday along with a range of other hardware announcements.
The tech giant has also produced two new versions of its smart speakers, a laptop and a sleek new virtual reality headset known as "Google Daydream View."