Wearable tech is something that is revolutionising the way we live, coming on in leaps and bounds in recent years. The latest innovation in the world of wearable tech is The Pilot translating earbuds. These earbuds aim to help you hurdle the language barrier and seamlessly interact with others in a different language.
The device works in a similar way to a Bluetooth headset, as your phone does most of the work. The earpiece connects to the companion app, which listens to speech, before translating and relaying it to the earpiece. The unique part of this concept is that it allows the user (or users) to interact and speak in their native tongue to each other, knowing that their recipient is hearing what they’re saying in a language they can understand, and this all happens in real time.
Previously, you would have had to read from a screen and a translation app would speak those words to the recipient via the phone. Although that method essentially does the same task, it can be fairly long winded and doesn’t allow for a free flowing conversation. The set of two earpieces and the companion app will cost $250, with Waverly Labs hoping to be able to ship the first orders later this year. However, there are some severe limitations to the design, mainly, this model of conversation requires both parties to be using an earpiece. So, what would happen if you wanted to interact with a shopkeeper, for example, or anyone without an earpiece. Although this can translate incoming sounds, it is limited by both parties being complicit. That’s not to say it’s impossible. Waverly Labs have made their app so that the translation can be played out in real time, so as long as the other person can see your phone, the hurdle can be cleared.
The second, and most pertinent drawback to The Pilot is undoubtedly potential competition. There is already a competitor launched on Indiegogo called CLIK, offering essentially the same thing. However, the bigger threat comes from tech giants such as Google, Samsung and Amazon. With mammoth companies all trying incredibly hard to push their speech recognition systems and home integration, they all have the technology to make their own versions right off the bat. This should be a worry for the creators, although with $4,000,000+ pledged already they certainly have their foot in the door. But what would that mean for the user? Probably not much, as long as a giant doesn’t leap in while the creases are being ironed out. Creators of The Pilot say that their initial backers will be fulfilled within a year, but with an industry already worth $4m it’s somewhat hard to imagine a company like Google, who have already monopolised the online translation market, won’t develop some sort of competitor. And, if this is out before The Pilot ships, that may leave some backers hanging.
If they are able to fulfil the orders before anything else comes onto the market – and we hope they do – this could prove to be a revolutionary piece of tech. The Pilot have also had the insight to include two of the earpieces in each set, which means that you can listen to music through them when you are not using them for translation. This is a big upside, as you won’t always need translation and it means that you will be able to use the earbuds in your day to day life, even when you’re not abroad.
So, it’s not clear what the future holds for The Pilot, but it is certainly an intriguing prospect. Here’s hoping that they don’t fall victim to the product poaching that so many crowdfunding projects suffer from at the hands of bigger established companies.