Your guide to wearable translation devices

These days it’s not enough to have instant, accessible technology in our homes and workplace…we want to be able to wear it too.

Wearable technologies have becoming increasingly popular year on year and they now dominate a significant part of the market – in fact, it’s predicted that the number of connected wearable devices worldwide will reach 929 million by 2021.

When most of us think about wearables, it’s the iWatch, Fitbit or GoPro that perhaps come to mind. After all, the health and fitness-focused devices have played a large part in the popularity of these technologies so far.

Now companies are beginning to focus on other arenas where wearable devices can have a big impact…and linguistics is just one of them. Here’s our guide to some of the latest up-and-coming applications for machine translation and language interpretation…all of which you can wear:

  • Waverly Labs’ Pilot is just one of a host of hearables – similar to a hearing aid, it uses automatic speech recognition, machine translation and speech synthesis. The Pilot claims to instantly translate speech using paired devices, allowing the user to have an almost fluid conversation with someone speaking in another language.
  • Logbar’s Ili is designed specifically for travelers – using voice-activation without the need for an internet connection, it repeats phrases back to you in the language of your choice in as little as 0.2 seconds. The Ili focuses on travel-friendly phrases rather than, for instance, business communications, but if you’re using it purely as a tourist when abroad it can prove hugely effective and extremely useful.
  • SignAloud Gloves offer something different again – not just about foreign languages, these award-winning gloves have been designed to translate American Sign Language into text and speech using sensors that can analyse hand position and movement.
  • Google’s Pixel Buds use a Bluetooth connection, and when teamed with its Pixel handset can offer real-time translation in over 40 languages using the Google Translate app. Simply ask Google Assistant to help you speak in another language and your words will be translated as you speak them, as an output from your phone’s speakers.
  • Fujitsu’s latest translation device has been specifically designed to allow people to communicate when their hands are occupied, for instance in healthcare treatment. Developed to enable healthcare professionals to communicate in multiple languages without the need for physical manipulation, there is further scope for this technology to be used within the tourism industry, public services and in the commercial market.

Could these devices spell the end of confusions abroad, offensive mispronunciations and those pantomime-esque hand gestures we resort to when desperately trying to communicate in a different language?

For the tourism industry, wearable devices will almost certainly have an impact, offering the potential to transform how we communicate while abroad and providing a far more enriching travelling experience.

But for business, it seems there is still some way to go until wearables can translate speech in real-time for use in international business meetings, for example. This technology is still in its infancy, and complexities such as cultural nuances will have to be achieved before such devices can compete with natural language speakers for accuracy.

However, as the appetite for wearables continues to grow, it is only a matter of time before this technology is developed further.


Are you looking for ways to overcome difficult business communications with foreign customers and overseas clients? Talk to us at Every Translation about how we can help with both written translation and interpreting for spoken communication.