Could new technologies help us break down language barriers?
Unveiled at CES 2018, the MARS wireless earbuds (developed in a joint effort by the NAVER Corporation and LINE Corporation) showcased the future of real-time language translation. Powered by Clova AI, the MARS wireless Bluetooth earbuds can translate speech from another language into the wearer’s native tongue almost instantly.
Clova works as a voice-controlled virtual assistant – similar to Alexa or Siri – that listens to your conversation and transmits the data to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The accompanying app then translates the speech and transmits a recording of the translation back to the earbuds, which play it back for you to hear. All this happens within a fraction of a second, so the translations are relayed in almost real time. Each pair of earbuds can work as a single translator for two people. For use in crowded areas, MARS also features noise-blocking technology to focus on individual conversations. The current MARS can translate between ten different languages, including English, Japanese and French, but 40 languages may be supported in the near future.
MARS isn’t the only product breaking the language barrier. Waverly Labs have created The Pilot, which works in a similar fashion to the MARS. However, translations are consecutive, so you have to wait for a person to stop talking before the translation is then played back through the earbuds.
Google has put its eponymous Translate technology to use in their Google Pixel Buds. However, in this system only one person wears the earbuds. Their side of the conversation is translated and then played to the non-wearer via the app instead.
The Pilot earbuds have noise-blocking capabilities to minimise surrounding sounds
The MARS earbuds won the Best of Innovation award at 2018’s CES