LOS ANGELES (CIRCA) — If you've ever struggled to communicate with a stranger in a foreign country, you've felt the effects of a language barrier.
While social media brings us closer together in the digital world, the language barrier continues to divide our global experience in real life. But now, tech innovators are seeking to bridge the cultural gap with inventions like the WT2 translator.
At first glance, this translator looks like any set of Bluetooth earphones, mimicking popular designs of on-the-go wireless experiences. But with the WT2, instead of listening to music or making calls, you can communicate freely with someone in real life and in virtually any language by sharing the earphones.
"When I share one piece with you, then both of us can just speak our mother language," said Timekettle co-founder Alex Qin, speaking to Circa at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the company received an innovation award. "It's real-time. You feel like it's even faster than an interpreter."
So, let's say you're in China and want to speak with someone in Mandarin. At first, only you are wearing the translator, which will listen to the voice of someone near you, either through a free-listening system or by touch activation on the device, and translate that into English. You can then speak English in response and the device will tell you how to say your response in Mandarin, or you can let the WT2 phone app speak for you.
After a certain point, you might want to offer the other earphone to the person with whom you are speaking. With one earphone each, you are both able to speak your native language and hear your words translated.
While the WT2 is not the first of its kind, this translator succeeds where others fail by helping you navigating a realistic social interaction with another person, and bring you closer to that person.
"At the beginning, we thought this would only be used in travel, but that's not right," Qin added. "People from international organizations, people from cross-country marriages—they can use this product," Qin said. "Because of the language barrier, there are a lot of amazing things that cannot happen. If we break this language barrier, then we can co-exist as one world."
The WT2 is available worldwide for $219.