Want to speak five languages? Or ten? The Babelfish language translator from Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy may now be a mechanical reality with Waverly Labs affordable smart earpiece language translator, named the Pilot.
The Babel fish,” said The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quietly, “is… probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything in any form of language.
Granted, Waverly Labs neat little hearing-aid style device only works on earth languages and cannot yet pick up everything spoken around us (and is not a fish), but it’s still my favourite tech innovation this year. If it’s legit, that is.
Currently available to translate languages directly into your earpiece in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portugese at the time of the May 2017 launch, the Autumn 2017 updates are slated to include Germanic, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Slavic, East Asian and African language translation options.
Simply put, when one person speaks, the other hears it in their language.
Founder Andrew Ochoa and his team at New York City based Waverly Labs have worked in product development, electrical, mechanical and software engineering, computer science, machine translation and manufacturing for 2 years to research and develop a device that changes the way we communicate – but will it actually do so?
At the time of this writing there is one month left on their 33% off pre-sale of the Pilot, a smart earpiece language translator that is receiving massive enthusiasm from around the world, hitting their target of US$75,000 within the first 15 minutes of launching the campaign with funds swelling to to US$1mil within the next few hours and presently still rising with $1,756,302 USD raised by 7728 backers.
However, for now it will only translate with its linked partner device, and both parties must be wearing The Pilot to engage in translation.
All languages are promised to be free for all early bird backers on Waverly Labs indiegogo campaign, and at the time of this writing there are still devices available for purchase in the personal (US$199-) and tour guide (US$879-) categories with worldwide shipping (of course).
There also an option to support with US$10 and have the latest updates delivered directly to you. A personal pack includes 2 earpieces, 1 mobile app and 1 portable charger, with the 5 full set package at the USD$179- early bird price for travel, tour guide & resort owners.
Pretty neat price for an option to change the way we experience travel and international communication. I truly believe it’s an item to watch.
The possibilities are endless, but too vast a horizon can be a curse to navigate – how will they program the device to be able to translate anyone around us, as they claim for the future? And how will they filter out excess audio? Will it be directional? Will it be programmed with tuning volume like a hearing aid? And importantly, can it also be used to learn languages?
This is the most interesting element of this earpiece to me – and is why I would purchase it. For while I am interested in having translation from around me, I am personally more interested to plug my brain in to a direct foreign language translation into English. It would become a language tuition device for full day use, allowing me to info-load vocabulary for hours at a time (or all day if I chose) at much lower cost than regular tuition.
For example, I could wear this in conversation with another english speaker and have it set to translate into french (as if I were a french speaker) so that I could hear my language translated directly into french, increasing my useable language skills.
The big question is – buy now or later? And most importantly of all – is it legitimate? Or is it simply too good to be true?
Later for me, because I want to pick up my surroundings and also be able to translate into Chinese. However, the free languages option for all indiegogo purchasers is pretty appealing… if you’re willing to take the risk.
Personally I’m going to wait for version 2.
For more viewpoints, visit the Waverly Labs website or read The Atlantic’s article on the topic. Whatever you decide about this mechanical Babel fish, it’s definitely a creature to keep an eye out for in the future ocean of tech.
FAQ from Waverly Labs
Will it translate everything around me?
NO. This first generation does not translate everything happening around you. It only translates with people who also have the Pilot earpiece. Future generations will be developed to translate everything around you.
What if the other person doesn’t have an earpiece?
The full system comes with 2 earpieces for sharing during conversation with someone else. If someone does not have an earpiece, they can use the smartphone app which is included. Also, the app can be used as a loudspeaker during conference mode.
How fast is it?
Currently the translation only takes a couple of seconds of delay, but we are working very hard to get this lag shorter and we will release updates to the app with every improvement.
Is the translation perfect?
No, machine translation is not perfect and it will make mistakes sometimes, but the more people use it the better the translation engine becomes.
Can it be used offline?
We are developing an offline version so that you can use it while traveling overseas without a data connection. However this may be a later stage version of the app. The first version of the app will require online connectivity. We anticipate the offline use to be available by fall/winter 2017.
When will the app be delivered?
An early version of the translation app is expected this summer (August 2016) for basic translation. It will be the first iteration and allow for testing with our current backers throughout the year as we perfect the experience. This is included in your pre-order. The full app system with the Pilot earpieces will be delivered in May 2017.
What languages will be supported?
We are first introducing latin/romance languages this summer (English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese). Expected additional languages are as follows: (*subject to change)
Germanic: German, Danish, Swedish
Russian and Slovak: Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Polish
East Asian: Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese
Hindi and Urdu
Are these the ONLY languages which Waverly Labs will release?
NO. We expect to investigate a wide array of languages, including those which are not listed. We’ll listen to the feedback of our community to prioritize other languages throughout our development.
Are additional languages free?
Only for backers on Indiegogo. For everyone else, additional language packs will be available for a premium fee.
Will it translate for my dialect?
Every language has various dialects and the earpiece is designed to translate common dialects, although thick accents could disrupt this and cause improper translations.
Will the app work with other smart earpieces?
No. The app and Pilot are designed to work together using specific communication protocols.
When will the earpieces be delivered?
The earpieces require much more testing, manufacturing and production time. Therefore, we anticipate the earliest will be Christmas, although this is an aggressive timeline. Backers should be prepared to have orders fulfilled next spring 2017.
Where will you ship?
We will ship internationally, and shipping costs are automatically calculated when you preorder.
When will I select my colors?
We will send you an online form to collect your color preference later this fall.
Do you have a working prototype?
Yes! We’ve prototyped the software to allow for two people to carry a conversation using the app. The next stages of the software development will focus on building a scalable infrastructure of the system to support a large number of users. The Pilot earpieces have gone through several stages of the hardware prototyping, including component selection, pcb design and industrial design. The full system of hardware and software development begins this summer as we move into the engineering validation testing phase.
Can I be a beta tester?
We will invite a select group of the early bird supporters to become beta testers. This will be invite only based on certain factors, such as languages, geography and use cases. We’ll send a notice later this fall to allow for beta test submissions.
Are the earpieces waterproof?
How can I reach out to your team?
We are developing a community portal on our website to get to know you! In the meantime, message us on facebook and we’ll be sure to respond as soon as possible.
I’m having trouble making a contribution. What should I do?
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