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Science Fiction Becomes Reality

Posted September 08, 2023

Ray Blanco

By Ray Blanco

Science Fiction Becomes Reality

With AI assistants, quantum computing, fusion energy, even aliens - it really does seem like the future is now. Sci-fi is becoming reality left and right.

One recent product even resembles something referred to in a popular science fiction novel as “probably the oddest thing in the Universe”...

You can now purchase earbuds that translate foreign languages to you in real-time. Making it the tech version of the Babel Fish from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier, but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centers of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.

While it may be significantly less remarkable for something like this to be invented than to occur in nature, it’s still an extremely useful tool that seems to be pulled right out of Star Trek.

Using translation programs like Google Translate, while useful, can lead to awkward interactions. The user is looking at their phone instead of the person they’re talking to, which is impersonal and advertises the users lack of fluency.

These issues are compounded in business meetings where the two parties speak different languages. Professionalism and ease-of-use are critical, and pulling up an app on your phone and then waiting to read its translations does not scream “professional”.

Not in any language…

Having translations spoken to you via earbud makes for a much more natural interaction. And with it becoming so common to see people walking around with AirPods or Galaxy Buds, you won’t even look out of place.

The Signal From The Noise

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” -The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Science fiction remains “fiction” not because nobody had the idea (you read it, didn’t you?), it’s because we haven’t figured out how to make it work yet.

Both quantum computing and fusion energy have been held up for decades because we haven’t figured out how to cool down the machines we’ve built for them.

A translator that fits in your ear is obviously useful to anyone that travels abroad or does foreign business.

But do they work?

The answer is…


The leading brand of translator earbuds on the market right now is Timekettle.

Timekettle earbud

Their M3 Translator Earbuds can translate forty languages while connected to the internet and thirteen while offline. The set can also be split between two users so they can have a conversation, despite speaking two languages.

They boast a relatively impressive translation speed of between half a second and three seconds.

This may sound quick, but a delay of a second or more is definitely enough to break conversational rhythm.

But considering that something so convenient and discrete functions as quickly as any handheld translator, it certainly makes the future blur with the present.

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