If anyone ever asks what the best thing about traveling the world might be, it’s highly likely that zero people will put up their hand and say, “Having to resort to miming and wild gestures because you don’t speak the local language and you’re completely lost in the middle of nowhere.” Yes, we all know how difficult it can be when you want to buy a train ticket in China but don’t speak Chinese, or ask a waiter in a restaurant in Spain if they have vegan options but you don’t know any Spanish.
What if there was a magical gadget that could translate things for you so that you don’t have to actually learn anything? Oh wait, Google has already done that. Get ready to meet the Pixel Buds. When combined with the Pixel or Pixel 2 smartphone and the Google Translate app, the Buds are essentially a robotic translator which can help locals and tourists understand each other in up to 40 languages. The idea is that you speak English into the Pixel Buds, and your phone will say aloud the translated version, and vice versa.
Although these Buds seem pretty much perfect, Business Insider performed a test with several different languages such as Spanish, French, Hindi, and Korean, and found that slang words, idioms, and long or complicated sentences came out very weird on the other side, but simple and short phrases were very accurate. So, as long as you’re not asking someone about their thoughts on the theory of relativity, but rather finding out where the restroom is instead, then you should be fine.
While it’s unlikely that some of the best and well-known translation apps already in existence will disappear entirely, these Pixel Buds do open up a new portal for traveling – one that doesn’t involve butchering the local dialect with your hastily-learned guidebook phrases. Furthermore, as this is Google, not some random startup hoping to gain funding with a new, fancy gadget, we’re bound to see further improvements and developments with regards to the translation technology and the hardware. As Google is already working on other types of apps at the same time, one would hope that the Pixel Buds aren’t a flash in the pan but will stick around to get better over time. Let’s just say nothing about the failed item that was the Google Glass.
The Google Pixel Buds retail for around $159, but when you consider that they are wireless, and can also provide many other useful functions like playing music, giving directions, and placing phone calls, then the translation feature could just be the cherry on top for someone looking for new earphones.
Of course, the correct thing to do before any vacation is to study the local language and customs, which has admittedly become a lot easier with language-learning apps such as Duolingo or Babbel, but if you’re someone doing a two-month long trip through Europe – a continent with dozens and dozens of varying languages – then the Pixel Buds do seem an incredibly useful gadget.