Google has built earbuds that translate 40 languages in real time

Google is the first major tech company to build the Babel fish.

Google has built earbuds that translate 40 languages in real time.

The search company, which is now making a slew of its own hardware products, announced the Google Pixel Buds at a San Francisco event today (Oct. 4). The earbuds connect wirelessly with Google’s latest smartphones, but more importantly, they’re able to access Google Assistant, the company’s virtual personal concierge, which launched exactly a year ago. Through this software, Google claims the earbuds can translate 40 spoken languages nearly in real time—or at least, fast enough to hold a conversation.

A demonstration on stage during Google’s event showed accurate and nearly instantaneous translation from Swedish to English, but it’s unclear how well it will perform in the real world, where background noise, differences in accent, verbal stumbles, and so on could confuse the software.
Google has been ramping up its translation services for years. Late last year it released a new version of its simultaneous translation service powered completely by artificial intelligence. Quartz tested the service after it launched, and concluded it had some work to do on its Chinese.