The WT2 Plus earbuds were on show at CES Unveiled at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Hotel on Sunday evening, US time, kicking off the week-long event. The world’s largest annual consumer technology show, CES sets the tech agenda for the year each January.
Offering a taste of what’s to come throughout the week, CES Unveiled continued the tech world’s focus on wearables, smart home and the internet of things. The plethora of smart devices included smart water taps, door locks, cook tops, binoculars, beer brewers, bread bakers and breast pumps.
The fitness wearable boom appears to be waning, replaced by health-focused smart devices focused on air and sleep quality.
The WT2 Plus earbuds began life as a Kickstarter project 12 months ago and, after a successful campaign, are set to be officially launched at CES later this week.
Along with “Auto” mode for hands-free translations, the earbuds also support “Touch” mode, which requires each user to tap their earbud before they speak. This can be more practical in noisy environments, ensuring the earbuds don’t accidentally pick up other voices.
A third “Speaker” mode allows one person to wear an earbud while the other person interacts with their smartphone. This allows the other person to both see and hear translations, as well as reply using the phone’s built-in microphone.
The earbuds offer a three-hour battery life, with the supplied carry case able to fully recharge them twice.
While they’re described as a “real-time wearable translator”, the fact that they can only handle one phrase at a time — rather than delivering continuous translation — means you can’t use them for watching foreign movies on SBS.
In this way they are similar to Google’s Pixel Bud translators, although those only work with Google’s own Pixel Android handsets.
Timekettle promises 95 per cent accuracy in translations from the WT2 Plus earbuds and, put to the test, they performed admirably when conversing in English and Mandarin on the noisy CES Unveiled show floor.
While the earbuds look somewhat large and cumbersome, they fit comfortably in the ear and remain firmly in place while speaking.
Translations are fast enough and accurate enough to support natural speech, although understandably errors can creep in when people speak rapidly.
The app requires internet access for real-time translations, but an offline mode is coming later this year.
The author travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of LG.
Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.