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Real-life Babel fish: Translating earbuds make a splash on Kickstarter

Scientists have built a pair of earbuds that uses top translation tech to decipher languages in real-time (Credits: Wooask/Solent News)

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, travellers in outer space famously used a Babel fish stuck in their ear to understand what aliens were saying.

Now scientists have taken inspiration from the celebrated radio series and novel and created a set of earbuds to do exactly the same- just on Earth.

Much like Douglas Adams’ legendary creation, the headsets make it possible to understand scores of languages in real time.

But rather than relying on a small yellow fish like Earthman Arthur Dent was forced to when encountering the Vogons, this invention syncs with your smartphone to render foreign tongues understandable.

The earbuds pick up what is being said to the wearer and then translates the words into your preferred language, speaking them into your ear.

Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Russian, German and Arabic translation are all available and the makers claim they can start working in as little as half a second.

Powered by four of the top translation engines – Google, Microsoft, Baidu and Nuance – the translation accuracy can be as high as 97 per cent in 71 languages and 56 accents, they say.

The invention will make the old fashioned phrase book a thing of the past and will save tourists having to resort to Google Translate to understand what’s being said to them.

The inventors claim their translator buds have up to 97 per cent accuracy in 71 languages (Credits: Wooask/Solent News)

The translator earbuds, created by Chinese firm Shenzhen Wooask Technology, can also be used to make phone calls and listen to music by connecting to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

They come with a charging pod and can last up to five hours after a single charge. They are even water-resistant and come in three different sizes.

Appealing for investment via the website Kickstarter, the earbuds’ creators make a direct appeal to fans of the novel, which was originally a BBC radio series, before going on to sell 14 million copies worldwide.

‘Have you ever read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?’ they ask.. ‘If yes, you may remember one of the most interesting objects was the Babel fish – a small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe.

‘When the main character, Arthur Dent put it into his ear, it can translate the universe’s languages for him to finish his exploration of the galaxy.’

The company claims that their earbuds are the modern day Earth equivalent.

Dixon Wong, Chief Technology Officer of Wooask, said: ‘Wooask Translator Earbuds are packed with features that make them incredibly useful. They are very simple to use, very beautiful in design and light in weight.

‘They support 71 languages and 56 accents with online translation, and nine widely spoken languages offline without network. Furthermore, they can also play your favourite style of music, or conveniently switch to make phone calls.

‘To make translation more accurate, we use high-performance dual microphones and noise reduction to focus on the sound of your voice even through a noisy environment.’

The real-life Babel Fish has attracted over £41,000 on Kickstarter (Credits: Wooask/Solent News)

Andy Lee, Founder and CEO of Wooask, said: ‘Language barriers exist because of who we are, what we do, and where we came from.

‘With Wooask Translator Earbuds, you’re always beyond the language barrier.

‘Quick and effective communication is key in today’s complex business world.

‘Wooask is a global leading translation solution provider for all smart voice-based needs. We offer software, hardware, and services to improve customers day-to-day working lives.

‘Breaking the language barrier is more than just physical – it’s financial. Wooask is disrupting the market with a truly standout pair of 3-in-1 translator earbuds. Therefore, our product is now in great demand.’

The earbuds have attracted more than £41,000 on a Kickstarter campaign and are expected to be manufactured and shipped this year.


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