Google Pixel Buds – A Game Changer for the Global Communication? Or a Cultural Complexities Challenge?

Unless you have some superpowers, the odds of you understanding the language of every country you travel to are rather poor.

Think for a moment…How many times did you have to rely on Google Translator to communicate whatever you wanted to say when you were abroad?

Of course, you can buy a travel guide with a phrase book, or count on the fact that the guy at the local shoe store will understand your wild gestures…but how frustrating not being able to communicate really is?

To bridge the gap, Google has announced its new technology breakthrough – Google Pixel Buds, which are wireless headphones that serve a function of a real-time personal translator. The new device is supposed to have the capability of translating over 40 languages in real-time.

How would that work?

Imagine you are in Zanzibar, Tanzania on an exotic holiday in a 4-star hotel. You got tired of the hotel buffet food downstairs, and you decide to try out something more local. You go outside the hotel area and you notice a local women selling handmade purses. You approach her and by touching on the right earbud you ask her in your native tongue to recommend some good restaurant where locals like to eat out.

Instantly, the earbud translates whatever you said into the native language of your choice – which in case of Zanzibar would be either Arabic or English. For the local to respond in her native language, all you would have to do is to hand her the phone in order to receive an audio translation of her speech to your earbuds. Sound easy, right?

During its debut at the Google Pixel 2 event, presenters used Pixel Buds to demonstrate a conversation between two different languages, English and Swedish.


Where is the catch?

Although, instantaneous translation is the most groundbreaking feature of Google Pixel Buds, the device can help you out in plenty of other ways. It pairs up with Google Virtual Assistant, which is controlled with touches, swipes or spoken commands and can send text messages, make calls, listen to music or give you directions – all without getting your phone out of your pocket. Not only that, but the device is also capable of recording all your conversations if you wish to. Pixel Buds will be available in the U.S. at the beginning of November, and its cost will be $159.

It all sounds pretty great, however, it appears that as for now the translation feature will only work on the Google Pixel phones. Therefore, if you own an iPhone you might as well get AirPods, which provide you with similar smart functions as Google Pixel Buds, minus the translation feature.

Another issue that might come up when using Google Pixel Buds translating feature abroad might be the amount of mobile data needed for it to work, and the cost associated with it. Between the EU countries, data plans can be acquired at relatively reasonable rates, however if you travel further and need international roaming, that might cost you a fortune.


What about the language nuances?

There are countless examples roaming around the internet of inaccurate and at the same time funny translations from one language to another.

As human beings, we try to make logical sense out of the translated sentences. However, when a technology is brought up into the equation the potential for misunderstandings is even greater.

Google had in the past received legal threats from a small Spanish town when its translator made a mistake of translating a simple word for an offensive one. I can only imagine that when more people will start using the translating feature of Google Pixel Buds, the possibility of inaccurate translations bordering the line of offensive will be even higher.

Another issue that comes to my mind is, how well Google technology is going to take into the account the cultural grammatical aspects and complexities of the spoken language?

Let’s take the Spanish language as an example. There are about 405 million native Spanish speakers in the world. However, even within this number, not all of them speak the same Spanish. Each country, and each region has its own colloquialisms, and regional variations. How is Google translator going to coupe with that to make sure that the technology provided is inclusive to everyone?


What about the future?

Despite, all the potential issues that might come up with more frequent usage of the device, Google has provided us with leading-edge technology that has the power to unite and bring people closer together.

Real-time translation for now will probably be only used in simple, daily conversations, rather than technical talks, however Pixel Buds do sound promising, and our modern society is definitely prepared for such a global communication game-changer.





Game Changer: New Google Earbuds Translate 40 Languages in Real Time

New Google ear buds offer real-time translation of spoken conversations

Google’s Pixel Buds will find cultural complexities a challenge

Google’s New Earbuds With Real-Time Translation Have Huge Implications for Travel




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Paulina Swoboda

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2 thoughts on “Google Pixel Buds – A Game Changer for the Global Communication? Or a Cultural Complexities Challenge?

  1. Yannick Andrien says:

    Outstanding post!
    I wrote my post on the same topic as you without knowing it and I find that these Google Pixel Buds are a breakthrough device too. However, do you any fear about the use of this technology ? In my opinion, a lot of people couldn’t use this tool in the appropriate way and will give up learning foreign languages. I’m sure that Google has developed that to help people to communicate in a better way but I think that in the long term, this will affect some professions like language teachers, professional translators, … The day you will forget your headphones or smartphone, and you need to communicate in a foreign language, it would be more difficult for you to make you understood.
    But, for every technology, people must be aware to use it in the right way.

  2. Alevtyna Chernykh says:

    Hey) Nice work!
    I agree, one of the main reasons to introduce such technology is lowering the boundaries among people. These Google Buds will eventually make your life easier when travelling to other country and where you are not really understanding their language. In fact, it is very hard to know all the languages of the world, but if, for example, you are constantly travelling to other countries, this device will be a great assistant to you. Therefore, as the translation right now is not that good, I think it will change in the near future as the technology is developing really fast and all these mistranslations will vanish away. And for now, it is a great step towards introducing the technology of the future.

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