When you think about it, languages are bloody annoying. There’s no reason you wouldn’t be able to get on with, theoretically, any other person in the world but, due to this insurmountable barrier of you not understanding them, and them not understanding you, you’re stuck having to hang out only with the other cats who speaka your lingo. It’s also unfair on the rest of the world: they’re missing out on your incredible chat.
But now - genuinely - there appears to be a device which could end the language barrier. Which could enable you to speak, in real time, to people speaking 40 different languages. Actually, I’m kind of annoyed I wrote a vaguely flippant first paragraph as this is genuinely amazing and could actually change the world.
The magic translating device is Google’s new Pixel Buds; wireless headphones designed for use with their new Pixel 2 handset. Once paired to the handset, you can access Google Assistant, which can play music, read you messages - all the usual stuff - but if you ask it to help you speak another language, and then speak in English, the phone will tell you what to say. It will then also translate the reply back. And all in real time, with virtually no lag.
If you don’t believe me - just watch this video.
Weirdly, this demonstration came at the tail end of Google’s Pixel 2 event in San Francisco on Wednesday, and was presented with the minimum of fuss.
But just think about this. Suddenly, you can chat, in real time, quickly and easily, with anyone who speaks one of 40 languages that the headphones supports.
it’s worth noting that this feature only works when the Pixel Buds are used with the Pixel 2 so, given that the iPhone X’s best new gimmick was the ability to pretend you were the poo emoji, Apple might be starting to get a little concerned right now.
People have been quick to make the observation that this means that the Babel Fish, from Douglas Adams’ sci-fi classic Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, is now an actual real thing. It’s described in the book in the following way:
“The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.”
Now, of course, your natural instinct is that this is a good thing: if everyone can understand everyone else, then there should be no more misunderstandings, or cultural confusions, should there?
Sadly, Adams’ book suggested otherwise, explaining that, “the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different cultures and races, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”
So if Trump and Kim Jong-un don’t finish us off first, this will. Have a great day everyone.