The dream of in-ear real-time translation goes back at least as far as Douglas Adams’s Babel Fish, a little alien that fits in a human ear, feeds on brain waves and, miraculously, excretes translations into the ear canal. At an event in October, Google introduced its new Pixel Buds, which appeared to turn Adams’s fantasy into a reality. When paired with a compatible Android smartphone, the earphones provide instantaneous computer-generated language translation.
The demo drew rave reviews from the technology press. “Google’s Pixel Buds translation will change the world,” screamed the headline at Engadget. “Pixel Buds are probably the most important gadget Google launched,” offered Mashable. “Can Google’s Pixel Buds be used in post-Brexit trade negotiations?” asked the Telegraph.
Nope. Google Translate, which powers the Pixel Buds, is a fantastic piece of technology. I used it in Beijing last month.