Waverly Labs Have Created Headphones That Instantly Translate 20 Languages

Ambassador is a pair of over-ear headphones that can live translate a conversation or any speech made within 2.5 metres.

13.01.2020 | by Christy Romer
Photo by Waverly Labs
Photo by Waverly Labs

Around 2014, Andrew Ochoa and a team of engineers gathered together as Waverly Labs to create the next generation of smart headphones.

But as many of the Waverly staff were from different language backgrounds, a new idea came to mind: What if smart headphones could also work as instant, in-ear translators—a bit like the babel fish from a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

The team was successful. This year, the company will be releasing Ambassador, its newest piece of tech to live translate conversations between any of 20 languages. All users have to do is put on the over-ear headphones to instantly talk to people in languages including English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin.


Waverly Labs


Waverly Labs innovation

In 2016, Waverly Labs created Ambassador’s early generation sibling, Pilot. The earbuds, connected via bluetooth to an accompanying smartphone app, were immensely popular: 35,000 units were sold, for a total of $8m in revenue.

Ambassador has improved specs to make translation quicker and more effective. The headphones are now over-ear, making it easier to share the tech with multiple people. A promotional video shows Ambassador in-use during a lesson, with a teacher speaking in English, and her students replying in their native languages of Arabic and Spanish. Each person has the spoken language translated into their native language in real time.

What’s more, Ambassador comes packed with two additional settings:

  • Listen, which actively listens to somebody speaking nearby (within 2.5 metres) and translates their speech into the user’s native language
  • Lecture, in which Ambassador can be used to translate and play everything said through a smartphone or a paired audio system

Whereas Pilot was only able to work in a one-to-one situation, Ambassador can translate nearby speech on the fly in meetings, networking events or watching a speech. The tech is also capable of connecting multiple Bluetooth devices at the same time, so that a group of people could get involved in a multi-language conversation.

The $200 Ambassador device has already generated $500,000 in pre-sales and will be available for general release in April 2020.

“[The technology] allows professional-grade translations all over the world,” Ochoa says in the video.

“That’s what Ambassador is. A world without language barriers.”

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