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Did Google’s Pixel Buds just break the language barrier?

The written and spoken word have been shaping our lives since the dawn of mankind. They’ve built and defined societies, led to a greater understanding of the world around us, and helped to bridge the gap between nations, but they’ve also been a barrier. Even simple differences in dialects can lead to difficulties in communication, and attempting to speak in a completely foreign tongue can often result in huge misunderstandings. The truth is that regardless of where you come from or where you are going, the ability to converse with the people around you is one of the most basic necessities, but also one of the hardest skills to master. It’s no wonder then why the dream of a universal translator has worked its way into so many books and movies over the years. Whether it’s the TARDIS in Doctor Who, C-3PO in Star Wars, or the Babel Fish in Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, a means of breaking down the barrier between languages has captured our imaginations for decades. Now, thanks to Google’s new ear-buds, we’re one step closer to that reality. They’re called Pixel Buds, and they can translate your entire conversation as it happens.

Scheduled for release this November, Pixel buds are Bluetooth headphones set to compete against Apple’s new AirPods. While they do still retain a cable between each earbud, they don’t need to be plugged into a phone to actually function. Although they are packed with all sorts of fun features and tech, there’s really only one aspect that caught our eye: the integration with Google’s translate service. The new Pixel Buds will have the ability to convert up to 40 different languages to your home tongue at the press of a button, and more importantly, be able to translate your response back to the person with whom you’re communicating. While other services have attempted to do this before, none have been able to achieve the level of seamless conversation seen in Google’s live demo below.

While it’s not clear how well this system will work in a noisy urban environment, or if it will function without cellular service, Pixel Buds are a major leap forward for anyone wishing to communicate in a foreign language. Even more exciting, they’re actually affordable, with an initial retail price of just $159 USD. We encourage you to check out the video below and then visit their website for more information. 

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.