Imagine being able to visit any foreign country without having to worry about the language barrier. Until recently, universal translating devices only existed in science fiction movies and TV shows. But technology is finally catching up with human imagination, and companies worldwide, are feverishly working to introduce universal translators. Among them is New York-based startup Waverly Labs.
Their solution, dubbed the Pilot, is a smart earpiece that instantly translates spoken language, allowing the user to have a seamless conversation, despite not knowing the speaker’s language. Waverly Labs founder and CEO, Andrew Ochoa, says he came up with the idea after being unable to converse with a French girl he liked.
The Pilot, which will debut in the spring of 2017, fits comfortably in the ear, just as an earbud might. The company provides two earpieces, one for each user. When either talk, the device in their ear picks up the sound of the speech, which then goes through a smartphone app that converts it into text, translates it into a spoken form, and then “whispers” it back to the listener in his or her language. As a result, the user is able the understand the other person despite not knowing the language.
The smart device also keeps out ambient noise, allowing users to focus on the conversation. When not needed for translation, the earpieces double as earbuds that can be used to listen to music. The Pilot smartphone app can also be used as a translation phrasebook and even for conference calls allowing participants speaking different languages to converse. Like all machine-based translators, the Pilot is not perfect. However, Waverly Labs asserts that it is much more accurate than the products currently available on the market.
Currently, the device is dependent on having a data connection and can only translate one-on-one conversations. Developers hope future generations of the Pilot will be able to translate all that is going on around a person, and function offline. They also hope to decrease the few second delays between speech and translation. The first version of the Pilot available on iOS and Android phones will come equipped with English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. More languages will be available as premium downloads during the latter half of 2017.
Although several tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Apple, are developing real-time translation programs, the Pilot is unique in that it is the first wearable translator. While the company has yet to ship the smart earpieces, thousands of people have contributed over $3mm USD to the company’s crowdfunding campaign for a chance to get them at a discounted rate. For those that missed out, Waverly Labs estimates that the Pilot will be available in retail stores by the end of 2017 and will cost about $299 USD.
Resources: smallbiztrends.com,cnet,com, indiegogo.com, gizmag.com