The Babel fish has arrived. Sort of.
An artificial-intelligence powered earpiece that can translate spoken conversations has gone on sale for $179 (£140). Developed by Australian startup Lingmo International, the Translate One2One uses IBM Watson’s natural language understanding technology to understand both the words and context being spoken, before purportedly delivering a near-instant translation.
The earpiece doesn’t rely on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to translate conversations, meaning it can be used on airlines and in remote areas. The device can translate conversations across English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German and Chinese provided both speakers are wearing an earpiece.
According to Lingmo, the use of IBM Watson helps the device overcome common translation hurdles such as regional dialects. For example in Spanish “ll” could be pronounced “y”, “j” or “sh”, depending on the dialect.
The earpiece was unveiled at the United Nations AI for Goodsummit in Geneva, Switzerland last week. It’s now available to buy for $179 with shipping starting in July. Other similar devices are being developed, such as Waverly Lab’s translation earpiece Pilot, shown at Mobile World Congress this year. But Translate One2One is the first to go on sale.
Danny May, founder and director of Lingmo International, decided to take on other machine learning translation services such as Google Translate after an embarrassing experience in China. Rather than saying to a police offer “hello, how are you?” he instead blurted out: “Hello, I love you”. Soon after, in 2013, his startup released their first translation service which was used via an app.
In addition to the translation earpiece, customers can download the app version, which also includes a currency converter.