I believe we’ve all dreamed at some point of possessing Star Trek’s universal translator, or a babelfish. The ability to go and talk to anyone in any language and not sound like a fool. That dream may finally be nearing realization.
The WT2 Plus translator is a pair of Bluetooth 5 earbuds/mic combos that pick up and with the aid of an internet connected phone translate in three different modes (real-time, walkie-talkie mode, and a speaker mode that does not require anyone to have an earbud in.)
I’d like to have a little more time with the translator, so this is why this is review #1. We scheduled a couple of week turnaround on the thing, it was supposed to arrive on November 1st, but due to carrier issues (not FedEx this time hijacking my goods, this time it was USPS,) I didn’t get it for quite a while and the people I had lined up to talk to in a couple of other languages than the review are unavailable until the middle of December at this point.
I got a chance to test some Spanish (Puerto Rico,) and some Spanish (Tennessee,) and I got a cold to end all colds and was pretty sure the only thing the WT2 could understand me saying today is “drup mah dub… ub.” So we’ll cover it some more later. Actually, it does understand southerners with colds. That’s cool.
First off, fit is key. These ship with fairly non-fitting (for me) ear connectors. They also include different sizes, but I’m usually the target ear size. Not with these. If you don’t get the size and the hooks right it’s not only painful, but you end up losing walkie talkie mode because you’re having to hold it in your ear. Oh well, not everything is going to fit right out of the gate.
Once fitted I started talking with a teacher who was speaking Spanish, I was speaking heavy southern (affected accent,) and a tad of Lawn Guyland I picked up when I lived briefly in NY in the 90’s. It did a very good job of translating me. He said it did pretty well with him.
In the first test it did OK at translating both ways. We were having some issues with noise and had to switch to walkie talkie mode. We were also having issues with internet. As such the initial translations seemed a tad slow.
It wasn’t a process that was as simple as two people just popping in an earbud, and it required a good internet connection. But it worked, and other than dropping the ball on proper names, it did pretty good.
So first two uses, I learn we need a quiet space, good internet, and to take time to properly fit the earbuds. When this is done, the translation is capable of keeping up with deliberate speech between one and three seconds behind.
I’ll be trying faster speech so soon as I can speak without coughing again, but that’s my issue not theirs.
Paul gets nitpicky about the WT2
If you’re thinking this could be accomplished by existing technology, I think you’re right. This feels like they could offer a service using two people’s phones, and some decent earbuds, and away they go.
I mention that because there’s a line on the product description that’s supposed to be a selling point but becomes a turnoff for me:
It’s a professional product for language, doesn’t support listening to music or making phone calls… er yes, but why not? If I’m going to be hauling these around with me all the time on the off chance I need to talk to someone in another language, wouldn’t making them be able to be useful at all times be better than telling me “no, go get a cheap set of earbuds you heathen”?
As it stands, each one of these is an independant BT5 earbud with a mic. Both connect to the same phone, and the app sorts out sending EB1’s voice here, and EB2’s voice there…
Bullying the app
WT2 Plus is a translation app. The earbuds by themselves don’t have WT2 printed on them. Sitting here writing this and having forgotten the name of the app I searched “transl” on my launcher… nope, WT2 Plus… tell me what you are. You are a translation app.
OK, that’s about it.
High praise for understanding
I have no idea how to describe what I sound like today… I thought at the beginning of this there was no way it would be able to understand me, but it’s doing ok
Decided to test Google Translate to see how it was doing these days and here you go.
The fact that either can understand me is kind of amazing. WT2 I think wins hands down because it can process two inputs at the same time translating voice into the other earbuds allowing a little more natural flow to things. Also being able to simultaneously show two people’s text translation and have two audio streams running rocks.
Let me have that wax
How do you say in French “no thank you, I do not want to use used waxy earbuds,” because I’m a bit worried this is going to be a thing, which is why allowing at least one cheapo BT earbud/mic might be useful.
After CES 2018 when I managed to get an eye infection from a AR rig I watched get wiped down with alcohol, I’ll tell you I do not really like putting other people’s equipment on me. I think there’re going to be quite a few like me.
WT2 Plus: A lot of criticism?
There are things that need to be addressed with the WT2 Plus – such as cleaning this becomes paramount, and the app needs renamed and some usability updates, but so far I’m actually not down on the thing regardless of what it may read like.
I would like to see an option from WT2 that allows a couple of people with their phones and non-WT2 Plus earbuds to tap phones and translate using their own equipment. I see this as more of the model to go after than higher end hardware because if they don’t, I’m betting Google Translate will.
I’ll be testing these out a bit more, we’ll have review number two sometime in December.