Set to be one of the biggest Christmas presents this year, there’s a big buzz around the newly released Google Pixel Buds. And with headlines like ‘Google Pixel Buds translation will change the world’ you would be right to wonder what all the fuss is about.
Apart from being the obvious challenge to the Apple Air buds, the main selling feature of these new headphones is their translation abilities. “It’s like you’ve got your own personal translator with you everywhere you go” states Google. They’re said to be able to translate 40 languages in real time, and a demonstration at their launch seemed to show the translated conversation between an English speaker and a Swedish speaker go pretty smoothly.
However, are these new headphones about to revolutionise the translation industry as we know it? The general consensus seems to be no. The way these headphones translate is mainly through the phone they are connected to, rather than the headphones themselves. The headphones merely record the language spoken, for it to then be processed via Google translate on the phone. This means the headphones may struggle in areas with a lot of background noise and definitely will not work without internet connection.
While this may be useful for those on holiday to help with basic conversations or getting directions, it has very little to offer the language services industry currently. Many translators are aware the technology is not yet capable of is understanding context, slang, and technical language. Technical language being the area that many translation companies, such as Language Insight, specialise in. The professional Portuguese translator João Correia told Business Insider: “Any legit professional will tell you that no matter how much the technology evolves, there’s simply no way for it to replace a translator or an interpreter due to several issues, the major ones being sentiency and abstraction”.
So it appears translators have no reason to be worried that their jobs will be taken by machines. It seems that it is not so much the Google Pixel Buds we should be impressed by, but the translation AI they showcase. Google is definitely leading the pack when it comes to AI technology, and are obviously confident in the translation side of this development. This kind of advanced AI is certainly something that could benefit language services and DS Interpretation founder Bill Wood said to Business Insider “Interpreters will never be replaced by technology, they will be replaced by interpreters who use technology”.