You’re traveling abroad and meet someone you’d really like to spend some time with. Only problem is neither of you understand a word the other is saying. So you pull out a pair of earpieces, each of you inserts one in your ear, and voila! You now both understand everything the other saying. We can’t tell you how the romance turns out, but we can tell you about the technology. New York City-based company Waverly Labs is currently pre-marketing a device that will translate spoken foreign language for you - without having to let a babel fish burrow into your ear. Called “Pilot,” the device listens in on a multi-language conversation and translates it via a smartphone app to provide nearly real-time translation. It’s a world first, and a giant step closer to making the sci-fi worlds of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's and Star Trek into science fact.
Company founder Andrew Ochoa says he got the idea when he met a French girl that he apparently liked enough to find a way of surmounting the language barrier. Now with his Pilot device he could simply insert the earpiece when talking with her, and he will hear her in English while she hears him in French. Pilot will conveniently be sold in pairs. All else it requires is a clear signal from its built-in microphone, and a dependable online translation engine, such as Google or Microsoft’s. It will then convert the translation from text to speech and send it back to the listener wearing the earpiece. Of course it will need to do all this very quickly and effectively while the other person is talking, so as to avoid significant lags and maintain the simultaneity of the conversation. The necessary translation systems are already out there, though they’re not perfect and any glitches will likely mar the experience. But it can only get better. Both Google Translate and Microsoft’s Skype Translator are already attempting real-time conversation translation in mobile and desktop applications. Pilot's main innovation is utilizing these resources and implementing them into a wearable device that talks directly into your ear.
Set to launch this autumn, Waverly Labs is starting with only Romance and Germanic languages at first, as these are much easier for online translators than other languages at the moment. Later they hope to add African, Arabic, Asian, Hindi, Semitic and Slavic languages. Pilot comes in three colors: white, red and black, includes two pairs of earpieces, a portable charger and the accompanying app. Waverly Labs expects Pilot to be available in fall 2016 for a retail price of $299. Meanwhile its available to preorder starting May 25 when the company launches its Indiegogo campaign. They are also giving away one free pilot every week as part of their premarketing. You can visit their Facebook page for more information. Perhaps best of all, romance really was the inspiration behind the Pilot, as you can see in the video: