The growth of the human race shares a direct correlation with the growth of language, and as our chirps and utterances have evolved, so have we as a society. It’s almost impossible to describe how important language is and has been throughout history. How one chooses to communicate is one of the hallmarks of an intelligent species.
But as much as language brings us together, it can keep us apart. It can become an ideological border that presents much trouble to cross, and since no two languages are exactly the same, nuances can be lost in translation. And many languages are tied closely to a specific culture or region–meaning many words can get lost in translation. The Linguistics Society says that as of 2009, there are almost 7,000 different languages that are being spoken around the world.
But as with every other problem we face today, science and innovation have stepped forward to offer new solutions. The Pilot is a new piece of gear that vows to take on the task of language. Specifically, the Pilot is an earpiece that translates languages in real time. Started as an idea on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, the project reached full funding and, as of this writing, is 3,179 percent funded.
The Pilot is being developed by a company called Waverly Labs, a New York-based consumer electronics company founded in 2014. Waverly Labs boasts that the Pilot will be the world’s first earpiece capable of translating languages in real time. The Pilot works with two earpieces and a companion smartphone app. It’s the app that does most of the work, as most of the translation goes on there.
When two people who are speaking different languages use the Pilot, each person takes one of the wireless earbuds. The earbuds act as both a speaker and microphone, picking up the words of both interlocutors. The dialogue is sent to the companion app, where it is converted into text, translated, and sent to the other person in their language. The Pilot also functions as a phrasebook, a noise blocker, and can be used as regular earbuds.
Waverly Labs isn’t the only company pushing forward with translation technology. Japanese Mega Corporation Panasonic has also thrown their hats into the language race. The company has developed their own translating piece of equipment. Called “The Megahonyaku,” it works similarly to the pilot in that it translates languages in real time. Instead of earbuds, Panasonic has opted to use a megaphone instead. The Megahonyaku was designed almost as a parallel to the Pilot. Whereas the Pilot is meant to translate between two people, the Megahonyaku translates one person’s speech for others to hear. Both use smart app tech to translate, but in this case the technology is built into a touchscreen interface on the side of the megaphone. The current build can translate between Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English, and probably reflects the world in which it will be used for more specialized fields.
Companies like Google have been developing translation tech for years now, and they’re working on improving it every day. Google recently announced that their translation service can now translate entire sentences instead of just words. While this might sound like a minor change, it actually has large implications. Translating sentences makes context and subtleties much clearer than translating word for word.
Globalization is one of the biggest boons to the development of new technology, and scientists and innovators are paying it back by making globalization even easier. The new steps in wearable translating gadgets are a big step towards a more united human experience.