If done well, it builds bridges. It even gets you married.
If not, it gets you divorced. Or arrested. Or it starts wars.
What if there’s a tool that makes communication between foreigners flow? What if there’s a tool that could get you married to a stranger that doesn’t understand a word of your mother tongue, without you ever having to touch Google Translate or a website?
I’ve covered a t-shirt, featuring icons printed on the front, that helps you bridge the language gap when you’re travelling abroad.
But how about an earpiece that translates a foreign language in real-time?
Is it even possible? If so, are you ready for this?
This is some next level Star Trek stuff I’m talking about here.
And yes, it exists, albeit it still in early bird stage. (The Pilot is still in pilot stage but should ship mid 2017.)
It’s called the Pilot and it’s a design by Waverly Labs.
And don’t worry. It’s two-way communication. So you don’t need the ICONSPEAK t-shirt.
Let’s take a look at the Pilot to see if this kite will fly once it’s launched.
What you need for the Pilot earpiece to work
To make the Pilot earpiece work, you need two people who don’t understand each other.
I’m not talking teenage anxiety here.
I’m talking two (or more) people not understanding each other’s languages.
But that’s not all.
You also need the Pilot earpieces, which come in a set of two.
But for the earpieces to work, you need the app.
If, for some odd reason, you don’t have both earpieces on you, one of the parties can always use the app. Or wear the ICONSPEAK t-shirt. Whichever makes you feel less vulnerable.
How the Pilot works
Here’s how the Pilot works, in nine easy steps:
- Unpack the Pilot earpieces.
- Download the app to your phone.
- Clean your preferred ear.
- Turn the earphones on.
- Pair the earphones with your mobile device. (It works via Bluetooth.)
- Place an earpiece into your clean ear. Make sure the other person does the same.
- Open the app on your phone.
- Start speaking in your own language.
- Watch the other person’s jaw drop at your ability to speak their language, in the voice of a woman.
Now, from the official video by the creator of the Pilot, it seems that the voice speaking the translation, is that of a female.
So, if you’re a two metre tall guy with a beard the size of a king size duvet and you’ve always wanted to sound like a girl, this is your chance. Get the Pilot app.
You’ll be in good company…
I remember when I still used the TomTom app on my phone (before Google Maps became a productive citizen) that I found great delight in the voices of Homer (the Simpson, not the Greek) and Darth Vader.
In fact, getting lost was part of the fun, especially if Homer Simpson spurted out something about an ice cream truck.
If Waverly does something like that with this tool, they might draw interest from people who want the earpiece for the fun factor.
Imagine you’re whispering sweet nothings to your new Ongota-speaking girlfriend and she gets an earful of Homer’s “Hmmm, chocolate… Doh!”
The Pilot offers the following languages for free:
You can buy the following language packs for the Pilot:
- Mandarin Chinese
How does it translate?
The Pilot works as follows:
Your speech is passed through layers of speech recognition, machine translation and speech synthesis, courtesy of the Pilot smart phone app.
A few seconds later the receiver’s earpiece whispers the translation into their ear.
We’ve all rubbed shoulders with the leaders of the world in meetings held in expensive African buildings built to waste money. (There’s free food.)
As you know, these meetings plunge into linguistics hell if the translator isn’t as professional as the South African ANC sign language interpreter, Thamsanqa Jantjies. See him in action in this world-famous video from the Nelson Mandela memorial.
The Pilot earpiece has a conference setting. This allows many people to speak their own languages in a meeting.
You can use your phone’s built-in speaker setting to send a translation to people close to you.
If the Pilot works, it’ll make even the most complex of business meetings a breeze. It’ll also be a lot more cost-effective than using a human translator.
How it charges
The Pilot comes with a portable charger.
A Li-ion battery gives it between 4 to 6 hours of talk time. This is more than enough to build a deep, meaningful relationship with a foreigner and then head back to your home country.
iPhone and Android
Yes, the app will be available for iPhone and Android phones, but only Bluetooth Low Energy enabled devices.
Listen to music
You can use the second earpiece, the purpose of which is to communicate with someone else, as a standard earphone.
Pair it with the main earphone to stream music from your phone.
What if my ears are too big?
Unless you have elephantine ears, you shouldn’t worry too much. The Pilot comes with earpieces in three sizes, right out of the box.
The Pilot’s not waterproof, so take it for a swim only if you want to kill it.
Here’s some technical data about the Pilot:
- Bluetooth Low Energy
- NFMI technology
- Dual noise-cancelling microphones
- Digital signal processor
- ARM processor
- High performance stereo with noise suppression
- Rechargeable Li-ion battery with 4 – 6 hours talk time
This thing has me excited. Yet, with all the hype surrounding the Pilot earpiece, one needs to remain sober.
The technology behind the Pilot isn’t new. It’s just packaged well.
But I doubt it’ll be smooth sailing all the way. I have some questions…
- Will the Pilot understand all types of English, or American English only?
- Will the Pilot be able to handle the speech of someone with a speech impediment?
- Many languages contain words that sound the same to the untrained ear, but mean completely different things. Will the Pilot be able to pick up on the meaning of a word?
- Will the Pilot handle different dialects?
Just some thoughts…
The least amount of money you can give towards the development of the Pilot earpiece, and receive a product in return, is $199.
Here’s what it gets you:
- Two earpieces,
- one mobile app and
- one portable charger.
That’s with 33% discount.
There were other packages available, but they all sold out.
In fact, the Pilot earpiece received 2665% of its funding. That’s a staggering success.
If the Pilot translator works as advertised, it’s going to be big. This will change the way people travel.
This might also open up the market for other companies to follow suit with competing products.
As for fixing communication between a husband and his wife, this tool won’t help much.
Visit the Waverly Labs website for more info about the Pilot translation earpiece.