TechKNOW Tomorrow – Earbuds that Translate Languages Offline

Image by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash.

Imagine a world in which everyone spoke the same language, and nothing could be lost in translation.

This would make for an interesting movie that takes place in a utopian world, but in reality, it just doesn’t make any sense. Language is limited to tens of thousands of words, and many languages have unique words that don’t translate well at all.

It’s not realistic or feasible to have everyone learn multiple languages to communicate effectively. So, we turn to the next best option – translator devices. There are plenty of handy translator devices out there. There are even online tools that are completely free like Google Translate.

So far, we’ve come across two major issues with these digital translators: 1) They are frequently not very accurate; and 2) They all require access to the internet in order to function at all. For most of us without data, this is heartbreaking. But there is a solution.

The First Offline Translator

A company called Timekettle has recently updated one of their products, the WT2 Plus earbuds, with the ability to translate 40 different languages and 93 different accents offline. Using A.I.-assisted technology, you won’t require data to receive real-time translations of what others are saying.

Image by Timekettle via Timekettle.

It takes up to 5 seconds to have a sentence translated for you and it’s entirely hands-free, so no need to pick at your phone; conversations are apparently close to seamless. The device is up to 93% accurate with what it translates, which is pretty good. It also offers up to 15 hours of battery life thanks to a mobile charging station (it can translate for roughly 5 hours without the charging kit). The device comes with an app that works on both iOS and Android, making it accessible to the majority of users.

It has three different modes depending on the situation. Simul Mode is specifically designed for quiet environments. Each person wears an earbud, and one person can speak without stopping. While they’re speaking, the translation will playback in real-time through the non-speaker’s earbud. This mode offers the most realistic type of conversation but has trouble with accuracy sometimes.

Then there’s Touch Mode, which is specifically designed for noisy environments. Each user wears an earbud, and one person will touch the sensor to activate the voice pick-up. Every touch of the sensor again will translate the spoken sentence. This mode is a lot more accurate, though cumbersome.

Finally, there’s Speaker Mode, which is great when only one person has to speak. For example, if you’re giving a presentation to people with a different native language. In this mode, you continuously speak, and the earbud will automatically activate the voice pickup for translation and recording.

Drawbacks

There are always drawbacks to cutting-edge technology. The lack of accuracy is an issue with ALL translators, so there may occasionally be issues with words that require clarification. With languages that have many similarities with words, the translation may be less accurate. German to English or Spanish to Italian, for example, might cause a bit of confusion.

The other major issue is the cost – the WT2 Plus will set you back about $240 U.S. Thankfully, they do offer a Lite model for $150, though it frequently goes out of stock and doesn’t feature as many languages or the offline support.

That said, in a world where masks have become the norm and communication is becoming increasingly difficult, the WT2 Plus might be a “sound” investment. If you enjoy travelling to foreign countries, you’ll likely be able to find a great use for one of Timekettle’s products.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – Augmented Reality Contact Lenses

Image by Harry Quan via Unsplash.

We live in a world where the answers to everything can be found on our phones. Need directions to someone’s house? Open your GPS app. Want to know how to spell a word? Google it. Do you have to present info and you need speaker notes? Use your phone. Did you get lost while hiking? Call someone.

But this method of using your phone for convenience is cumbersome. By staring at these screens, people are unable to enjoy all of the little moments. You can miss an awesome concert, a child’s first steps, or the highlights of a hockey game by getting caught up with your phone.

Not to mention that phones have several limitations. For instance, our phones aren’t generally able to process the visual environment around us that well.

Ever wonder what it would be like to not have to rely on your phone for everything? Just close your eyes and imagine a way to get all of this important information without having to stare at the screen of a device all day…

. . .

Now open them.

There already is a way, and it’s called augmented reality (AR). Augmented reality is a method of seeing the actual environment around you, yet mixing it with digital information for an enhanced perspective of reality. Instead of using your phone for everything,

Traditionally, you need a large device for this such as a headset or at least a pair of glasses. But several companies are already testing a less irritating and noticeable version of AR with contact lenses.

Most people don’t like the idea of walking down the street with an ugly pair of goggles on their heads. COVID-19 has demonstrated the challenges communication presents without the ability to gesture with the mouth. AR headsets would further eliminate human expression by almost entirely covering the eyes.

However, wearing a pair of contact lenses presents less challenges for the user as they are virtually invisible. You won’t have to worry about failing to communicate your thoughts properly, for instance. The eyes tell a lot about a person; with contacts, they still can.

If these contact lenses work as they’re supposed to, you’ll be able to open a text message just by looking to the corner of your eye, check reviews of a new local restaurant, and learn the various constellations while looking up at the night sky. They will be compatible with all of the phone apps you regularly use, too!

Image by Mojo Vision via Mojo Lens.

The best part is that they don’t always interfere with your life like a phone does. Usually, you have to turn off your phone to avoid distractions. With these contact lenses, you won’t be presented with an overwhelming amount of digital information unless you’re looking for it.

And if you’re visually impaired in any way, these lenses will be able to correct your vision like normal contacts can. They even help detect the edges of tables or beds in the dark when you have to get up for a glass of water or a bathroom visit.

That said, this technology is still being tested with prototypes. It’s possible that it will take years before these lenses actually make it to the public. Just knowing that it’s on the horizon, however, is pretty cool. Technology is progressing at an incredible rate, with every year bringing new and exciting innovations that make life a little bit easier.

. . .

At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

App Spotlight – 1Blocker

Advertisements are really frustrating, aren’t they?

On the one hand, they allow us to enjoy a large variety of content found on the internet for free. Videos, news articles, and pictures are readily available for almost anyone to see, all with the benefit of not having to pay for a subscription. On the other hand, many ads can be quite obtrusive, impeding how swiftly we can absorb content or even breaking our immersion with a piece of content entirely. Sometimes it feels like they’re impossible to avoid.

Ever watch a lengthy YouTube video that is interrupted halfway through with two lengthy ads? Try to read an article but had to wait for the webpage to load because of several ads? Obstacles like this can really hamper your experience with the internet, but they don’t necessarily have to. No matter what device you use for your computing, there are several ad blockers out there.

1Blocker

Image by 1Blocker via Tools&Toys.

If you use the Safari app, it likely means that you’re using an Apple device such as an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac. It certainly is nice for browsing the internet, but there aren’t many extensions or plugins available to make the browsing experience better and more personalized for users. This means that Safari is missing the wonderful AdBlock Plus, which prevents ads on numerous websites from ever appearing without sacrificing the speed of your connection.

In response to this, a similar app was developed for Safari users – 1Blocker. 1Blocker has a high number of overwhelmingly positive reviews, meaning it’s a lot more trustworthy than some of the more shady apps out there.

1Blocker prevents most ads from appearing while you watch videos, search for memes, read various blog posts, and anything else you might do on the internet. It also prevents the majority of trackers and cookies from collecting little bits of information about you (e.g., stuff you search for on Google). This should hopefully clear up many of the annoyances you experience while browsing the internet.

Keep in mind that this is not a recommendation to block all ads; if you want to help support your favourite content creator on YouTube or continue reading the news from a specific website, why not turn on ads for those you feel deserve it?

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.