When Google launched its Pixel 2 smartphone, the company also introduced its Pixel in-ear wireless headphones, the first headphones produced by Google. The new headphones called Pixel Buds, created some excitement, as they are touted to translate spoken language into the user’s ears, just like simultaneous translation. Google announced that the wireless headphones in tandem with the Pixel smartphone are capable of instantly translating about 40 different languages.
In the demonstration, the Pixel Buds showed how they are capable of translating short phrases from English into Swedish and vice versa using Google Translate that’s installed on Google’s Pixel 2. Pixel Buds’ product manager, Adam Champy showed how to activate the translation feature of the headphones. The user only has to press the right ear bud and ask it to help speak a language. It is like having a personal translator that accompanies you wherever you go. This is the main unique selling point of Pixel Buds – real-time, built-in speech translation delivery.
The feature is not new. iPhone can already do it and the Google Translate app on Android phones is capable of doing the same thing. With Pixel Buds, once the live mic is activated, the user can listen to the words in English and be able to translate and speak them in any of the 40 languages available. When the person you are talking with responds, the app will listen and translate what was spoken in English. The app works better with a good data connection. In Europe for instance, it would be economical as there are no more roaming charges there.
Pixel Buds partner with Google Assistant to access the other services of Google. Users can use the headphones to set reminders or play music, with the right ear bud as the controller. At the same time, the wireless headphones can automatically connect to an Android phone using Android Marshmallow OS (6.0) or a newer version, or to a Pixel smartphone.
Using the Pixel Buds eliminates touching the phone connected to it to respond to phone calls, play and pause music, adjust phone/playback volume, map directions or send and read out text messages.
The headphones are not exactly wireless, as they are actually neck buds, with the mechanisms connected by a fabric cord that enables you to hang the headphones around your neck. The small adjustable loops on the cord keep the ear buds securely in your outer ear, unlike the Apple AirPods that are inserted into your ear canals.
Reactions from professional translators
Professional translators think Pixel Buds is an awesome gadget and many are not worried. For them, the app is able to recognize words and is good for simple sentences. But Pixel Buds would not be effective for longer sentences as the headphones cannot recognize meanings and will sound gibberish. The system does not have the capability to recognize the non-verbal aspect of words and will have difficulty when tackling Asian languages. They think that Pixel Buds will be good for tourists asking basic questions.
Still, some translators think that the system will take away their jobs. They think that although the technology is not yet there, there will come a time when it will eventually catch up.
Pixel Buds comes in a carry case that doubles as its charger. The case provides 24 hours of battery life in a single charge, while a single charge of the Pixel Buds is good for five hours of use. Google Pixel Buds are coming out in November and will sell for $159, the same price as the AirPods of Apple. It can also work with iPhones and Siri but updating can only be done when paired with an Android phone.