If you have ever been to a foreign country where English is not widely spoken, you will know how frustrating communication can get. We all crave for something like Star Trek’s universal translator or a real-life protocol droid like Star Wars’ C-3PO but time will only tell if such technology will ever become a reality. Fortunately, we are seeing some strides in technology that is moving us closer to this reality like Microsoft’s Skype Translator that translates a video conversation in near real time. But even more exciting is the Pilot Smart Earpiece that brings us a giant step closer to breaking the language barrier.
It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention but in the case of the Pilot Smart Earpiece, the mother of invention is a beautiful French girl. Andrew Orhoa, the CEO of Waverly Labs, the company behind Pilot, came up with the idea for the product because he wanted to break the language barrier between him and a French girl he was interested in. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for the rest of the world, she did not speak much English. Through over 2 years of research and development in both software and hardware engineering, the closest thing we now have to a universal translator is born.
The Pilot system’s basic kit consists of two tiny wireless earpieces, a charger and an accompanying app. The earpieces go into your ear and also into the ear of the person you wish to communicate with. Most of the heavy lifting of translating the speech and sending the translated audio to the correct earpiece is done by the app running on your smartphone. So when one party speaks, the other party hears the translated speech on their earpiece and vice-versa.
For a start, the Pilot translator system will work with a selective set of languages that includes English, French and Spanish. Waverly Labs plans to include more languages in the future like German, Russian and Mandarin. The language translation engine learns through usage and as more users make use of the system, the translation gets better over time. There will also be an effort to make the system work offline without a data connection. This will certainly be a huge plus for travelers who don’t have to rely on expensive data roaming to use the device.
The earpieces themselves are quite impressive as far as state of the art technology goes. Each Pilot earpiece has dual noise cancelling earphones to cut out ambient noises so that the translation can work even in noisy environments. It uses low energy Bluetooth to communicate with the phone plus it has a rechargeable battery that offers about 4-6 hours of talk time before needing a recharge.
You can’t actually buy the Pilot Smart Earpiece yet at the moment. Waverly Labs has raised $2.7 million in a highly successful Indiegogo campaign and unless you are a backer, there is still a long wait. Backers are expected to receive the final product somewhere in May 2017. You can make a reservation for your very own pair of earpieces for now and they should be delivered after the backers get theirs. While waiting for delivery you can check out existing translating apps that make use of similar technology but minus the cool earpieces feature to tide you over in the meantime.
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