Earbud translators will bring us closer | The Future IRL

The moment Google Pixel Buds were used earlier this month to demonstrate real time translation from Swedish to English, people started freaking out about potential use cases for this kind of technology. But the thing is, Google isn’t the only company taking this on.

Doppler Labs offered me a chance to try the beta version of its translation software, used inside of its existing Here One earbuds. It plans to release the translation feature in a software update early next year. I jumped at the chance, and first exchanged pleasantries with a fluent Cantonese speaker, then let folks in San Francisco’s Dolores Park use the buds to translate Spanish. Everyone that tried them in front of me loved them, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Proper nouns are enormously difficult to translate with ease across languages, and that was apparent when we asked one person in Spanish whether she preferred House Stark or House Targaryen in Game of Thrones. The translation spit out mostly gobbledygook. I struggled similarly when trying to understand where my conversational partner lived (Near Ocean Beach in San Francisco, from what I could tell) but it took about three tries to get there.

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