Tech companies have been trying to develop gadgets for our eyes for quite some time. It’s no news. Snapchat created the first version of the Spectacles in 2016 and has upgraded them several times. Also, at the initiative of one of its founders, Google introduced Google Glass in 2013, but it didn’t gain much traction. In fact, many mocked these glasses’ aspect and poor features at the time.
Most of the products we have seen so far haven’t had functionalities that could really change our lives ⎯I mean, taking pictures and uploading them to social media with glasses is not a big deal.
However, a few weeks ago, Google presented a new product that, if successful, could substantially improve the way we interact.
To the naked eye, they look like ordinary glasses, similar to the classic black Ray-Bans. But these glasses have an AR-powered feature with colossal potential: they can translate in real time and show us subtitles of what the other person is saying. This sets the stage for endless possibilities and could allow us to talk to virtually anyone in the world while the Google Translate engine does its job.
“What we’re working on is a technology that enables us to break down language barriers,” explained Eddie Chung, Director of Product Management at Google. “By making access to information just instant and intuitive, we’re making it so that technology can fade into the background and allow us to connect more with the people around us. They’re kind of like subtitles for the world,” he added.
But let’s go beyond the present and what Google shows us in its videos. Let’s imagine not only that this technology works perfectly but also that it’s adopted at a massive scale. What would happen then? Would it make sense to continue studying languages?
Of course, many people would still want to do it. But this technology could allow those who haven’t had the possibility or willingness to learn other languages, or who simply wanted to devote that time to other disciplines, to communicate seamlessly and without intermediaries. Moreover, everyone would be able to understand people who communicate through sign language.
That is the real and transformative power of technology.