Several months ago, Google released Pixel Buds, the wireless ear-buds that offer real-time interpretation in 40 languages. This new tool could be potentially disruptive for the simultaneous interpreting market, as an innovation that could trigger a real revolution.
Pixel Buds work together with an artificial-intelligence system connected to Google Translate and are built-in, at least for now, to the new Pixel 2 smartphone. This new device is intended to provide users with a real-time translation of what they are listening to.
This clearly ambitious project could be seen as a threat to many professional interpreters currently on the market. These professionals have years of training, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, ongoing professional training and development, not to mention years of experience in the field that they have gained over time.
The evolution of the translation industry goes hand in hand with the advancement of technology, so undeniably part of the market could turn to Pixel Buds as they have for other products and innovations that allow those unfamiliar with a certain foreign language to get an idea of what is being said in articles, interviews, films or songs. It is also possible that real-time automatic translation could help companies by simplifying internal communications and professional training, as well as being a highly useful tool for the tourism industry.
It’s still unlikely that companies will trust a tool that is difficult to monitor (yet who knows for how much longer) and relatively unreliable for mediating business negotiations, just as it is unlikely that participants at lengthy conferences will agree to listen to a grammatically incorrect or, worse still, nonsensical translation.
Google Translate, which despite being a constant presence online and can boast of widespread use, still frequently produces quite hilarious results, so it’s logical to think that there is still a long way to go before complete (or at least significant) automation of translation. In the meantime, however, current professionals should be warned: there’s no going back and viewing technology and innovation as threats to our industry would be a grave mistake. Technology and innovation are not adversaries we must fight, but valuable allies that we should get to know, study and use so we can continue to satisfy clients who are increasingly demanding and hungry for content in the best way possible.