Google’s Wireless Pixel Buds Put a Translator in Your Ear

October 5, 2017 - 2 minutes read

When Apple ditched the headphone jack and introduced the AirPods, many iPhone owners revolted. Consumers weren’t ready to be thrust into the wireless future quite yet. But now that people have had a chance to adjust to AirPods, there’s no doubt that the wireless headphone is here to stay.

Android app developers are stoked about the upcoming November launch of the Pixel Buds, wireless headphones optimized specifically for Google Pixel 2. Well, technically Pixel Buds are not wireless: the left and right bud are connected by a cloth cord that drapes across your neck. They charge inside a stylish cloth case.

The Pixel Buds can auto-pair with Pixel phones. All it takes is opening the case next to your phone. Early reviews indicate that unlike AirPods and many other modern headphones, these are not in-ear ear buds. Instead they rest in your outer ear.

Users can control the headphones with simple gestures. Tapping the right bud plays or pauses, swiping left or right adjusts volume, and double tapping reads alerts and notifications as they come in. There’s reportedly no way to skip tracks or customize controls — at least not yet. Holding down on the right bud gives you instant seamless access to Google Assistant.

As Chicago Android app developers might expect, the sound quality is decent, but not designed for true audiophiles. But how much can you expect from a $159 pair of headphones?

What really sets Pixel Buds apart from Apple’s AirPods is the translation feature. Powered by Google Translate, it enables you to access 40 different languages. It is as convenient — and imperfect — as Google Translate always is.

To use this feature, you conjure the Assistant and ask for a little help with your Portuguese. After you say your piece, the app translates your phrase and speaks it aloud to whoever you’re speaking with. They reply into your phone, and the phrase appears in your Pixel Buds.

It’s still a little clunky, but it moves us a little closer to the sci-fi ideal of instantaneous inner ear translation devices. Who thought we’d even get this close?

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