Google Pixel Buds: The Gateway to Language Barriers

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For every sci-fi loving person out there, we all remember how protagonists could speak to aliens with such ease. Han Solo could communicate with Chewbacca and Jabba the Hutt in the Star Wars universe. Aragorn could speak with the Elves in Middle Earth. Meanwhile, I can’t even order my food in Spanish without sounding like a tourist. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way you could say something to someone who spoke a foreign language, and whatever we said could automatically translate into their language?

It seems science fiction continues to become a reality with every new device and app in the headlines these days.

Google has blown our minds once again with their latest invention: Google Pixel Buds. These wireless headphones boast an ability to translate languages during a conversation.  Real-time voice translation sounds like the wave of the future, doesn’t it?

Check out their video below for their amazing demo:

Isn’t that amazing? As the gentleman in the video speaks to Isabelle, she holds out her Pixel phone, which plays the conversation back to her, but in her in her own language. Then, by tapping on her headphones, she can respond and her phone will translate in English. In what ways do you think this could be useful in your own life? Or in your business?

The Pixel Buds are a Bluetooth audio conduit which syncs to your Pixel phone, running Google Translate. The live conversation translation works through holding your device out for another to speak into it. The audio is routed into the Pixel Buds and your response will be picked up by the Buds’ microphone and relayed out of the phone’s speaker.

From a technological standpoint, it is impressive how the audio is translated and relayed to another person. One thing to keep in mind with the Pixel Buds could be that, although Google Translate easily breaks down other languages into simple sentences, it may lose things in translation.  Although it may be a little non-personal to wear headphones while trying to communicate with another person via Google Translate, this assistive technology could be beneficial to our society. New device affordances make assistive tech better and better with each iteration and new development. Accessibility and inclusion isn’t just an afterthought. There is real value in making products like this to reduce friction in people’s day-to-day lives.

This is something near and dear to us. Float has always built our apps with accessibility in mind. We actively support technologies like VoiceOver on iOs and TalkBack on Android apps. You might recall our application, Cydalion, which was an assistive navigation app for people with visual impairments. The Cydalion application operated through Google’s Tango Device, and it worked best with a lanyard, vest, and headphones. We’ve got a great respect for assistive technology solutions and long for a day when barriers to communication, navigation and general accessibility and inclusion for people of all abilities is a reality.

We’re looking forward to trying these devices out, and certain that if they perform and the demo video shows. The Pixel Buds will be packed in our travel bag the next time we’re on vacation!

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Alexis Benson

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On November 14, 2018
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