Breaking the Language Barrier


Communication is the key to understanding, but in a world where we communicate across many countries, languages become a problem. Fortunately there are now translation technologies to the rescue. One such technology by Waverly Labs named Pilot particularly fires up the imagination as it promises to whisper translated speech directly into your ear. Judging by the USD 2.7 million it has raised and its 12,000 over backers on crowd-funding site Indiegogo I’m probably not the only one interested in this nifty little gadget.

The problem of communicating across the language barrier is relatively commonplace. For example, finding information on a hotel in Japan or China can still be difficult without the help of an English language website. And I’m sure, anyone who has been to a foreign country has had the experience of simple day to day things such as finding the toilet or taking a bus turn into a charade of hilarious gestures. Translation technologies such as Google Translate exist to mitigate the problem, but you can’t always be whipping out your laptop at every turn or halting a conversation to look a translation up on your phone. That’s where Pilot fills the gap . 

Pilot is a nifty pair of earpieces that picks up speech and provides translation on the fly. Users who intend to communicate with each other wear an earpiece each, Pilot listens to the conversation and translates it directly into your ear in the desired target language. Currently, Waverly Labs claims to be able to translate 5 languages – English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, with more to be added in the near future.

I love it for various reasons. If they succeed, Pilot will prove to be intuitive and able to integrate, with minimal changes, to the way day to day conversation happens – spoken and between one or more people. But the reason closest to heart is its similarity to the Babel Fish. For those who have yet to read Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you must. But in the meantime, let me explain – the Babel Fish is a tiny fictional fish that when inserted into the ear allows a user to understand any language in the galaxy. 

Admittedly, the mechanics of the Babel Fish and Pilot are different. Firstly, one is a fish, the other are earphones. But more importantly, while Pilot conveys spoken language, the Babel Fish is said to feed on brainwaves and convey understanding of what was spoken directly to the user’s mind, circumventing the problem of language altogether. But until Waverly Labs invents mind reading, we’ll just have to settle for this brilliant little device that will hopefully break down barriers to communication. And bring us closer to the answer – 42.