• An attendee wears a pair of Google Inc. Pixel Buds wireless headphones during a product launch event in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
Okay Google...now translate.
Dave Gershgorn

6 Oct 2017 - 10:31 AM  UPDATED 6 Oct 2017 - 10:31 AM

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

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.

A demonstration on stage during Google’s event showed accurate and nearly instantaneous translation from Swedish to English.

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.

These 10 countries speak the most languages in the world
Multicultural Australia gets a mention, but we’ve got nothing on some of our closest neighbours.

The translation itself is currently processed on Google’s AI-focused data-centers, because it takes a lot of processing power. Audio must be converted to text, translated into another language, and then turned back into speech and spoken to the listener.

The last part of that process is traditionally done by putting together pre-recorded words or word fragments. However, DeepMind, Alphabet’s AI research lab, wrote in a blog post today that the AI research it used to generate human-sounding voices—a system called WaveNet—is now in Google Assistant. That means the voice speaking the translations will be generated in real time and thus more realistic, according to DeepMind. What’s unclear is how much of this processing will be done in the cloud and how much on the processor of the phone connected to the new earbuds.

The Google Pixel Buds cost $159 and provide five hours of battery life, and can be recharged from a battery pack in their carrying case.

This article was originally published on Quartz.  Click here to view the original. © 2017 All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

The surprising reason why you should learn a local dialect instead of a global language
At the same time as teens in the UK are turning their back on traditionally valued European languages such as German, French, and Spanish, Britain is experiencing a strong surge of interest in local idioms.
Fast food employee inspires Kiwis by speaking the Maori language
"He is an outstanding role model for young people and the future of our language rests with his generation."
Apparently, these are the funniest words in the English language
Researchers hope a new study will be helpful in tackling the psychology of humour.

This article was originally published on Quartz. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.