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Pixel Buds first thoughts

May 3, 2020

I bought a pair of Google’s new Pixel Buds this week (technically they’re the Pixel Buds 2, I suppose, but since the Pixel Buds 1 are better forgotten let’s just all stick with Pixel Buds without a number), and they arrived on Friday. So far I like them: easy to set up, comfortable to wear, good sound quality.

One feature in need of better design is the real-time translation, though. It’s a promising idea; trigger the Assistant and ask it to help you speak another language (e.g., “help me speak French”), and when it hears you speak English it’ll speak the French translation in your ear so you can speak it to the other person. And when the other person speaks French (continuing the example, the Buds will hear the language and speak the English translation in your ear.

So what’s wrong with it? Two things. First, the Assistant speaks the translation way too fast; by the time it’s finished translating a phrase you’ve already forgotten the first part of what it said. It needs to slow down when speaking the phrase, possibly saying it more than once until it detects you saying it, and potentially giving the option to display the phrase on your phone as well.

Second, there’s no cue to the other person when they can speak. If you try to explain to the other person what’s going on and when they can safely speak, you’re likely to confuse the Assistant and have it translate your attempts at explanation (which could, of course, be what you want). It’d be better if you could either provide a cue to the Assistant when the other person is saying something you want translated, or provide a cue to the other person when the Assistant is ready for them to speak (possibly again using your phone).

So as a wireless music and Podcast listening tool, I like the Pixel Buds so far. But I can’t see actually using them for real-time translation except in an utter emergency.

From → Hardware

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