Electric Babel Fish swims into crowdfunding

An outfit called Waverly Labs claims to have developed an in-ear translator

A company called Waverly Labs claims to have developed a real-time-in-ear translation unit.

Just how the “Pilot” pulls off the trick hasn't been fully explained on the company's site or the saccharine video that purports to show the device in action.

What we can say is that the material released so far depicts two wireless earbuds, with each party to a two-way conversation wearing one. Translated text reaches your ears a few seconds after speech is uttered in a language you don't understand. The device will initially translate between English and “European based Romance and Germanic languages”, with “other world languages, including Slavic, Semitic, Hindi and East Asian” to follow.

Waverly depicts the device in the company of a smartphone, so we're guessing there's either an app, a cloud service, or both helping things out, along with Bluetooth. But the company is silent on just how the system works, although it promises to reveal more in time.

The product's being crowdfunded, at US$299, with cash sought in this quarter and a mobile app offering “the basic phrasebook for translation while traveling” delivered in the Northern summer. Product is promised for Northern spring 2017.

Real-time translation is already available on Microsoft's Skype service. So it's not as if Waverly is claiming a breakthrough. It is, however, making some big claims for an unknown outfit. And there's a fair bit of bait-and-switch about its website, which is full of inducements to either promote the device to your friends or sign up for special pricing.

The Register also notes that crowdfunding has been known to turn up products a little too good to be true, as happened with the laser razor. We therefore await more material from Waverly Labs with interest, so we can properly assess whether this electric version of Douglas Adams' Babel Fish is tasty or stinky. ®

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