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Google shows off wireless headphones that it says can translate languages on the fly

  • Google released a line of new products on Wednesday.
  • When the Google Pixel Buds are paired with a new handset, the Google Pixel 2, the earbuds can tap into Google Assistant.
  • In addition to the translation of 40 languages, Google Assistant can also alert users to notifications, send texts and give directions.

Google released a line of new products on Wednesday, including its first pair of premium wireless headphones, which can support live translation between languages.

When the Google Pixel Buds are paired with a new handset, the Google Pixel 2, the earbuds can tap into Google Assistant, Google's artificially intelligent voice-activated product.

In addition to the translation of 40 languages, Google Assistant can also alert users to notifications, send texts and give directions. The translation feature can be conjured by saying "help me speak French," or any other language, according to The Verge, which got a preview of the device.

The controls, including swiping controls for volume, are built into the right earbud, Google product manager Juston Payne said on stage at the company's event.

"It's an incredible application of Google Translate powered by machine learning — it's like having a personal translator by your side," Payne said.

Payne and another Google employee demonstrated a conversation between someone speaking Swedish and another person responding in English.

During the demonstration, one employee, speaking Swedish, had Pixel Buds and the Pixel phone. When the phone was addressed in English, the earbuds translated the phrase into Swedish in her ear. The Swedish speaker then spoke back in Swedish through the earbuds by pressing on the right bud to summon Google Assistant. Google Assistant translated that Swedish reply back into an English phrase, which was played through the phone's speakers so the English speaker could hear.

While this idea might sound far-fetched, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told investors in January that Google Translate was set to make big leaps this year.

"We have improved our translation ability more in one single year than all our improvements over the last 10 years combined," Pichai told investors in a quarterly call, after parent company Alphabet reported mixed results.

The earbuds will be available in November for $159 but are available for preorder starting on Wednesday.