dinsdag 17 mei 2016

Conversations in any language for everyone! The future of languages... or not?

The future of languages is there: the Pilot. It's a small piece of technology you can put in your ear, and in the ear of the person you're speaking to (don't force it!). And when you speak to that person, it will automatically translate into that person's language. So you can have conversations with anyone around the world in any language. Potentially. It's produced by Waverly Labs, whose website crashed because of the high demand after its release.

Here's the promotion film:

Have you seen Her? It's a beautiful movie about a futuristic society, where everyone has a personal assistant in an earplug. The character falls in love with the earplug during the movie. What does the movie has to do with the Pilot? It's one of the reasons why I overall don't support the product: it's very impersonal. Of course, the original goal, a world without language barriers, is very promising.

But imagine. Most of the persons who speak to you in another language, you're not going to listen to their voice anymore. If you don't both have the plug, what are you going to do? And when your battery is empty? And if you're in the middle of a crowd? And if you make mistakes in your own language? How is it going to translate sensitive issues? What about sayings and dialects?

Is the the end of foreign conversations as we know them? ©
Who will buy those things (they're priced at 250-300$)? People who need them: migrants/expats, travelling businessmen, persons working in customer care or in multinational environments. Except those that came into those businesses for learning languages. And for free, you'll lose the personal touch.

I see only two viable potential markets: emergency situations (e.g. tourists in hospitals) and to replace interpreters at conferences. And the people that don't want to do the effort of learning a language, like tourists - not sure if they will do the effort of putting earplugs in the ears of everyone they want to talk to. Well, maybe I'm wrong - the website crash suggests it. But let's see how it goes in the future.

Funny thing: the inventor came to the idea when he met a French girl. I wonder how you could communicate intimately: 'kiss me in the neck', says a generic voice in his earplug after a few seconds. Very romantic.