Ask for directions without playing charades
The idea of translating a language seamlessly and instantly has long fascinated people. It shows up in pop culture all the time: just look at the Babelfish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or The Tardis from Doctor Who.
While perfectly accurate translation is still a long way off, you can buy earbuds that will translate in real-time. We rounded up the best wearable translators you can buy today. Invest in one of these and your next trip abroad could be much more fruitful.
Google Pixel Buds 2 — $180
The Pixel Buds 2 are the most recent iteration of Google’s Pixel Buds. This is an impressive pair of earbuds even without the translation functionality, boasting an Adaptive Sound feature and touchless access to Google Assistant. Where they truly shine, however, is in real-time translation.
The Pixel Buds 2 use Google Translate to almost instantly translate spoken words from one language to another. This feature can translate 40 different languages including French, Malay, Hindi, and Mandarin.
The process isn’t totally seamless, unfortunately. You still need to open the Google Translate app and choose the language the other person speaks, and then tap and hold while you talk. While not perfect, it is one step closer to the more seamless translation.
Aunu Audio M50 — $200
The Aunu Audio M50 earbuds, like the Pixel Buds 2, are a solid set of headphones. The earbuds hold a charge for six hours at a time. Combined with their charging case, the devices have up to 150 hours of life. But outside of the audio quality, these earbuds truly shine when you pair them with the Aunu Audio Translator App.
The app can interpret more than 33 languages in real-time without the need to type out anything on your phone. The Aunu Audio M50 translates the words directly into your ears. You don’t need to press a microphone button every time you use it.
The languages include some of the most common ones across the globe including French, Japanese, Spanish, and Mandarin.
Waverly Labs Pilot Earbuds — $180
Waverly Labs set out to create an earbud that could not only translate accurately, but be used for everyday tasks like listening to music or making phone calls. The Pilot earbuds were the result. The Pilot uses a charging case that keeps the earbuds charged for up to 20 hours.
The Pilot earbuds pair with the Pilot Speech Translation app to provide users with accurate, near-real-time translation. It has a Converse mode for holding a conversation with someone and a Listen mode for interpretation. The app can translate 15 languages and 42 dialects, with natural-sounding male and female voices.
The Pilot Speech Translation app also provides on-screen transcripts of the conversation so you can quickly review what was said. This also helps identify places where the translation might be slightly inaccurate. You can download a transcript of the conversation, and you also have quick access to a dictionary and phrasebook.
It’s not quite the Babelfish, but it’s one step closer. It’s also worth noting that these earbuds look great, too. Many of the more focused translation devices do not have the most attractive designs in the world, but the Pilot earbuds were designed with aesthetics in mind.
The WT2 Language Translator Earbuds are specifically designed for real-time translation. They are not meant to be all-around devices that can also translate. The WT2 can translate 40 different languages and 93 different accents, including less-common languages like Telugu and Slovenian.
The WT2 is designed with different modes for different environments. The “Simul Mode” is for use in quiet environments for continuous conversation, while “Touch Mode” is for use in noisy environments. “Speaker Mode” is for use when traveling or in a business environment.
Like other translation earbuds, the WT2 pairs with a translation app. It’s closer to the more futuristic translators than any other product on this list. For instance, in “Simul Mode” each person wears one earbud and can speak to one another with near 95% accuracy. The only concern would be another person’s earwax on your earbud.
WT2 claims the earbuds make it possible to communicate 85% of the world’s population. If you are a travel enthusiast or are interested in foreign cultures, these earbuds will make it possible to experience another culture on a much deeper level.
These earbuds represent some of the best wearable translators on the market. If you are a frequent traveler or work with foreign languages, these devices can be truly useful. Imagine for a moment if an ESL teacher could use these to help teach more complicated grammar concepts to a student that did not yet have a strong grasp of English.
A traveler lost in a foreign country could ask for real directions, rather than playing charades to get their point across. If you want a pair of earbuds for listening to music, these aren’t the best options—but if you want to understand other languages, these are the way to go.