The Guardian

Google’s translation headphones are here, and they’re going to start a war | Nigel Kendall

Douglas Adams’ in-ear translator from Hitchhiker’s Guide is becoming a reality. But knowing what people are really saying could be disastrous
Isabelle Olsson, lead designer for home hardware for Google, Inc., and Juston Payne, Product Manager for Google Clips at Google Inc., demonstrate two-way translation using Google Pixel Buds and the Google Pixel 2 smartphone at a product launch event on October 4, 2017 at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, California. Google unveiled newly designed versions of its Pixel smartphone, the highlight of a refreshed line of devices which are part of the tech giant's efforts to boost its presence against hardware rivals. / AFP PHOTO / Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

The aim of much new technology is to remove speech from the process of communication, so the excitement generated by Google’s in-ear headphones seems curiously anomalous. Coupled with the correct headset and software, these earphones, it is claimed, can simultaneously translate spoken language into the ear of the listener.

For those raised on a diet of Douglas Adams and (and that’s 99.999% of all people who write about technology), this represents nothing less than the first coming of the , an aquatic creature that excretes simultaneous translations directly into its host’s ear canal.

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