Yes, you heard right. At Google I/O 2022, Google finally blew us away with glasses that literally translate what someone is saying to you in front of your eyes – provided you’re wearing the glasses, of course.
The glasses look perfectly normal, seem to work without the aid of a phone, and almost make us forget about Google Glass.
In truth, not much is known about the glasses beyond the short video demo, which Google released at the end of a nearly two-hour event – a Steve Jobsian, “one more moment.”
The glasses use augmented reality and artificial intelligence (and optionally built-in cameras and microphones) to see someone talking to you, hear what they’re saying, translate it, and display the live translation on the built-in built-in translucent screens in spectacle frames.
“Language is so fundamental to communicating with each other,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained, but he noted that trying to keep up with someone who speaks another language “can be a real challenge.”
The prototype lenses (luckily Google didn’t call them “Google Glass 3”) use Google’s advances in translation and transcription to deliver translated words “in your line of sight,” Pichai explained.
In the video, a young woman explains how her mother speaks Mandarin and she speaks English. Her mother understands her but cannot answer her in English.
The young woman puts on the dark horn-rimmed glasses and immediately sees what the researcher is saying, transcribed in yellow English letters on a screen. Granted, we see an overlay of that in the video and not what the woman actually sees.
What’s clear, however, is that no one, as they had to with Google Glass, is looking up to see a small, oddly placed screen. The prototype allows wearers to look directly at the speaker, so the words are superimposed on it. In one segment, we see a picture from a translation point of view at work. Again, this is Google’s illustration of the prototype view. We won’t know how they really work until the prototype leaves the lab.
Google has offered no timeline for completing and shipping this project. We don’t even have a name. Still, seeing normal-looking augmented reality glasses that could solve a very real problem (they could translate sign language for someone who doesn’t know it, or show words to the hearing impaired) is exciting.
As one researcher noted in the video, “Kind of like captions for the world.”