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Video: We used a universal translator to play an inter-language game of ‘Telephone’

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Gadgets for humans

How fucked up can a phrase get? Answer: Very.

One of the coolest things from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy was the Babel fish. If you never read the books, it’s a little creature (well, a fish, but whatever) that slips inside your ear and translates the world around you. And it kicked ass. A universal translator that works that simply? Amazing.

It’s not just me that feels this way — tech companies have been trying to create a universal translator forever. And it’s no surprise. Just think of how it amazing it was when you first used Google Translate, but imagine that on the fly.

Well, you don’t have to any longer, because the latest in the long line of universal translators is here. So, one and all, say hello to the WT2 Plus.

[Read this, buster: Apple’s Q1 2020 financials were great — but it still needs a budget iPhone]

To test the WT2 Plus universal translator (and have a little bit of fun while doing so), we played a game of inter-language Telephone, or Chinese Whispers if you’re from the UK. Basically, this is a game where you start with a phrase, then translate it through as many different tongues as possible, before returning to the original language.

How would we do this? Well, thankfully we have people from all over the world working at TNW, so we rounded some of them up (in a nice way, promise) and got them involved.

Next up was the phrase. What snippet of text should we use to test out the WT2 Plus universal translator? We thought about using a tongue twister, but that felt a little bit too mean — as there would be absolutely zero chance of that translating correctly.

Instead, we went for something a little classier. You know, like the iconic opening line from Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice:

So, what happened? How did the WT2 Plus universal translator perform? What was the final phrase we ended up with? Well, to find that out, you’re going to have to scroll up to the top of the page and watch the video we created for you. Yes, you. Just for you.

But, let’s say you’ve already watched the video? And want some more information and thoughts on the WT2 Plus? Well, we have that for you too — solely because we’re so goddamn lovely.

Simply, it’s this little device that contains two earbuds and syncs with your phone. It then uses the earbuds (normally with two people and both using one each ) to help with translation.

First things first, you need to get the app. Then you select your input and output languages, and… talk.

Yep! You have three options on how to use the WT2 Plus, these are:

There are 36 supported languages, with a range of accents included in each one — taking it up to 84 in total.

All the main hitters are there, including: English, Mandarin, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and many, many more.

Yeah, pretty much!

There’s a slight lag (roughly 2 seconds or so) between saying something and having the translation, but that’s not a huge issue. Basically, if you’re looking for a slow exchange of pertinent information, the WT2 Plus is fantastic. But if you’re after a free-flowing, fast-paced discussion, then the technology just isn’t there yet.

Not the best.

The fit isn’t perfect, so most people who tried it out had to shuffle the earbuds around — or literally hold them in — while they talked. This is fine for short conversations, or when you’re sitting down, but isn’t particularly ideal if you’re moving about.

Well, they’re not cheap — clocking in at $230.

Basically, the WT2 Plus universal translator is cool. Really fucking cool. Even though it’s not instantaneous translation, it’s quick enough that it still feels sort of the magical.

The issue with it though is two-fold. First is its reliance on a smartphone. By having to use an app to translate, it kinda ruins the joy — especially when you could do a low budget version of the same thing using Google Translate.

The other problem is price. Maybe if it was $100 or so, you could justify getting the WT2 Plus for the novelty and excitement factor. At $230 though, they’re a bit too expensive for most people.

Now, if they could work completely independently of your phone, they’re be worth that cash and more. But unfortunately, they’re not a must buy.

Still, if you love the idea of a universal translator, and you have a bit of cash to spare, the WT2 Plus are a pretty impressive bit of technology. If you wanna take the dive, you can pick them up here.

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Published January 30, 2020 — 11:18 UTC

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