There seems to have been a lot of talk about translation in the wearables space as of late. Bragi just announced its new Dash Pro, which will perform real-time translation via a smartphone app, while Doppler talked about its plans to put translation natively on the Here One earbud.
But it's not all about languages. Wearables present a unique opportunity for people to think about accessibility, as we recently explored, whether that's giving new tools to the hard of hearing and legally blind, or finding ways to help people with other disabilities. This week we learned about some new ways tech is breaking down the barriers to accessibility and communication.
Ok, so fill me in - what's new?
A couple of things. First off, features editor Sophie went and checked out a smart glove that turns sign language into speech, and after a short demo came away suitably impressed.
What? Amazing. So glad you told me. Tell me more
Well, sensors in the glove detect the finger movements and the sentence is then either read out through the speaker of displayed on a screen. In Sophie's demo, the glove's creator Hadeel Ayoub signed "One day I hope to give a voice to those who can't speak" and sure enough, the words came right out of the glove. Pretty remarkable, no?
Agreed, but will this be something we can actually buy?
Hopefully. The Re:Voice gloves are still in the prototype stage but could be available within nine months, said Ayoub, who is currently looking at ways to bring them to market. But there are others out there working on similar projects, like the student team at the University of Washington that won a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their sign language translating gloves last year.
Super cool. What else?
Well, also this week Australian startup Lingmo announced it is getting ready to ship its Translate One2One hearable, which promises to translate languages within 3-5 seconds. This has an edge over Bragi as it's all done on the earpiece, so you don't need to be connected to anything via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, although it's not quite as slick in design.
It'll be able to translate English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German and Chinese using IBM's Watson Natural Language Understanding and Language Translator APIs, and a dollop of Lingmo's secret sauce.
Sounds good. Gimme!
You'll be able to get one pretty soon, as the One2One is going on sale in July. That means it's beating Pilot's translating earbud, although Pilot's offering is also going to be more discreet in the ears.
So what else do I need to know?
You can do yourself a favor and read our in-depth look at the state of real-time translation hearables. Also take a look at what Dot is up to, building a braille smartwatch that will let the blind read smartwatch notifications. There's also a lot to think about in the VR and AR space here too, for helping people with disabilities and breaking through language barriers.
Well, for one thing, just think about having cross-language conversations while wearing smartglasses which can translate onto the display in real time - useful if you're visiting another country - while VR can help make language learning more immersive.
Hearables and AR specifically become interesting new tools of integration between different cultures, and in the workplace this could mean a greater diversity in languages been spoken, yet everyone understanding one another.
And the best part? It's already started happening.