Google unveils earbuds that can translate 40 languages

Google product manager Juston Payne introducing the Pixel Buds at the launch in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Google product manager Juston Payne introducing the Pixel Buds at the launch in San Francisco on Wednesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SAN FRANCISCO • Alphabet Inc's Google has introduced new Pixel earbuds that the company says are capable of real-time translation of conversations in different languages.

The earbuds were among an array of new products unveiled on Wednesday, including the second-generation Pixel smartphone, voice-enabled home speakers, a Pixelbook laptop and a small GoPro-like camera.

Speaking at the launch in San Francisco, Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh said the new products "perfectly demonstrate our strategy of reimagining hardware from the inside out".

The new five-inch display Pixel 2 and six-inch Pixel 2 XL, along with the new speakers and laptop computer, all aim to infuse artificial intelligence to make the devices more user-friendly, built around Google's "Assistant".

Prices for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL start at US$649 (S$880) and US$849 respectively. The phones will be available on Oct 19.

A demonstration of the Pixel Buds got people playfully referring to them as an Internet-age version of the alien "Babel Fish" depicted in famed science fiction work The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. In the book, inserting a Babel Fish in the ear enables a person to understand anything spoken in any language.

Pixel Buds, synced to the new smartphones, promise real-time translations of conversations involving any of 40 languages. A demo included a two-way conversation with one person speaking English and the other Swedish.

"That was one of the best tech demos I've seen in a long time," said Current Analysis consumer devices research director Avi Greengart. "If it works like that in the real world, that is a 'wow, we are living in the future' moment."

VentureBeat reporter Dean Takahashi fired off a tweet saying: "The Babel Fish is here".

Pixel Buds, priced at US$159, will be available in the US from next month.

The earbuds can be controlled with touches, swipes or spoken commands, allowing users to, among other things, select music, send texts and get directions, a demonstration showed.

Pixelbook, priced at US$999, will support Snapchat. The keyboard folds behind the screen to turn the 12.3-inch touchscreen into a tablet.

Google Home Mini, one of the new speakers, is priced at US$49. The Home Max, with dual woofers for more powerful sound, is priced at US$399.

Clips, a pocket-sized camera with object-detection and automatic recording capabilities, will go on sale for US$249.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline 'Google unveils earbuds that can translate 40 languages'. Print Edition | Subscribe