Google’s much-hyped Pixel 2 press event confirmed that the company is here to stay as a serious player in the smartphone hardware space. True to form, the newly announced Pixel Buds are making headlines throughout the tech scene. This is due almost entirely to their real-time translation capability of more than three dozen languages.
On the surface, the Google Pixel Buds seem like nothing new. They’re a clear play against AirPods, Apple’s wireless earbuds that have polarized users since their introduction last year. Google’s version are technically classified as “neckbuds” as they aren’t truly wireless, opting instead to connect the left and right buds with a braided fabric cable that falls behind the user’s neck when worn. They feature integrated Bluetooth (obviously), high-quality audio, and active technology to filter out background noise during phone calls. Wearers interact with the buds via a streamlined tap-and-swipe interface integrated into the right earbud. For travelers and anyone who cares about battery life, the Pixel Buds provide up to five hours of listening time on a single charge. That’s not exactly earth-shattering, but the included charging case has your back with multiple charges for 24 hours of total listening time. While all this is great, it’s also (mostly) been done before.
The big news, however, is Pixel Buds’ ability to translate 40 languages in real time. This future-is-now feature is a game-changer for modern nomads. The functionality is available anywhere, anytime with a simple press of the right earbud, which summons Google Assistant (assuming you have an Android phone — Apple users are out of luck). to which you speak your request to translate, say, Japanese to English or Croatian to French. The translated phrase is then played through the speaker of your Google-friendly phone. When the person you’re speaking with replies, the phrase is received through your phone and translated back to you through your Pixel Buds.
If it works as advertised, it will be the most seamless, real-time consumer translation technology available today. Incidentally, this also places all of Google Assistant’s power directly in your ears. You can speak your requests — read your email, map the nearest coffee shop, or perform a currency exchange — while your phone stays comfortably in your pocket.
This technology has been attempted before via various Kickstarter initiatives, including Travis, which we covered earlier this year. All have either proven dead on arrival or failed to deliver on their lofty promises. But Google has a long history of nailing advanced, forward-thinking technology, plus the real-time translation capability baked into their existing Google Translate app is already second to none. We have faith that Google will knock this one out of the park as well.
Google’s Pixel Buds will be available in black, blue, or white for $159. You can hop on the waitlist now; the first shipments are expected to deliver in the next six weeks.