Pilot earpiece to turn us all into translators

Interest is growing in a new device which, when inserted in the ear, would offer an instant translation of whatever’s being communicated to you in a foreign tongue – handy if you’re in a cab and itching to get somewhere, though perhaps less so in a work context (pretty much everyone speaks English these days). In turn, your reply will be translated back to the person you’re conversing with, also wearing the earpiece.

Waverley Lab’s Pilot, launched in Barcelona at the end of the month, will reportedly be able to translate French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese initially, and supposedly more “complex” languages such as Mandarin, Russian or Arabic later – so you may want to think twice about acquiring one just yet before jetting off to an Asian destination.

Pilot will work through an app, which means you will have to carry a smartphone too (which begs the question – why bother with an earpiece?). And you might have to be online – seldom straightforward when travelling overseas.

In addition, there are certain other hurdles to overcome, like body language / facial expressions, and any device will have to be worn or shared by more than one party – conversation is two-way, after all.

Nonetheless, the potential is huge, especially with AI making further advances. I myself have experienced more than one tricky situation when travelling, owing to my poor linguistic abilities (in China especially). Any solution that allows us to understand each better, however imperfect, is progress.

Young Brits encouraged to acquire China work experience

Great Wall of China

Big advertising boss Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and CEO of WPP, has posted a rousing article on LinkedIn, To Move Upward, Move Outward, about the importance of acquiring overseas work experience, China specifically, explaining that:

In a world becoming smaller every day through globalisation and digital connectivity, we need people who can demonstrate they have what it takes to succeed in this environment. Increasingly, employers are looking for knowledge of markets beyond the West, an international outlook and the willingness to be mobile.

Sir Martin was writing as a “Leading Light”, or influential figure who has benefited from China, championing the British Council’s Generation UK: China Network, which recently celebrated its first birthday. The initiative aims to connect all UK nationals with China experience so that they continue and deepen their engagement with China. Specifically, it supports student employability and skills development, and provides a platform for Brits to further their business, academic and entrepreneurial connections to China.

As part of the campaign, the British Council will be hosting an event this Thursday on opportunities to study, work, teach or complete research in China. If you are flirting with the idea of moving to the Middle Kingdom, head on down to the British Council’s London HQ on 13 October. The two-hour event will start at 11am (full details and registration here). Who knows where a stint in this extraordinary country might take you?

British nationals with China experience already, meanwhile, can apply to join the Generation UK: China Network on LinkedIn, now numbering almost 2,500 members, to connect with other China alumni. Joining the network also provides access to high-profile speaker events, Alumni Awards and career opportunities. Sounds hen hao to me!

Back from the brink

Eagle eyed readers among you will have noticed two things.

The first was that Morecambe named “most desirable” digital nomad location was an outright lie, published on April Fool’s Day.

The second observation is that not a lot has been published since. In what were exceptionally busy times, I relocated twice in recent months – first to Iraq and later to Hong Kong.

I say “not a lot”; there have been a few posts – but of the wrong kind. Thanks to sophisticated hackers, a stream of garbage was posted that was tricky to put an end to. It could have been worse. The posts were education-related, so thankfully nothing sinister – and who knows – maybe they made a positive difference (though I shouldn’t really say that).

It’s another lesson. Stay alert, keep software up to date, and act quickly.

Microsoft, London Loves Business produce guide to flexible working

Lady with a laptop

Microsoft and business website London Loves Business have joined forces to release an ultimate guide to flexible working. At which point I should stop and reveal that I used to work for Microsoft, about a decade ago, but I’ve not had contact with them over this (but yes, I do have a soft spot for them still, though ironically I wasn’t able to work flexibly with them at the time).

The tech giant asks us to consider the following:

Take a moment and hark back to the time you’ve had the best ideas of your professional life. Where were you at the time? Taking a walk? Having a discussion with your friend over a pint of beer? Or, better still – in the shower?

I suspect many of us will probably think anywhere but the workplace, but surprisingly – in my case at least – my best ideas have come about while in the office. This is because of stultifying boredom on occasion, often producing radical ideas out of desperation. (Should I be saying this?)

Accompanying the release of the guide is an article published by London Loves Business with 8 fail-safe ways to make flexible working work for your workforce (that’s a lot of work).

The guide itself is a fun and colourful PDF (2.2 MB) with an overview of flexible working and its benefits, advice on choosing the right Microsoft technologies and case studies of businesses using Microsoft products (including the funky sounding Pooch & Mutt). Appropriately, the guide was written and researched from Pret a Manger and the train (presumably the author was fortunate enough to have a seat).

Shenhzen shows the way for makers and creatives


Hong Kong has always been a popular – and iconic – expat destination in Asia. But could next-door neighbour Shenhzen steal its thunder, at least among creative and technology types?

The capital of global hardware manufacturing (home to Huawei, DJI and Tencent, among others), a major design hub and popular with Silicon Valley startups, Shenzhen means serious business.

Writing for Make: magazine last year, Gareth Branwyn commented:

If you’re serious about taking any type of consumer electronics product to market – robots, microcontroller-based projects, mobile phones, laptops, internet appliances, 3D printers, etc. – there is only one city where you need to be, and that’s Shenzen.

To show just how extensive this “maker” revolution is in Shenzhen, Meijing He of British Council Hong Kong has shared a downloadable PDF map of maker spaces, incubators and accelerators (10 MB). And for those of you based in the UK and wanting to get involved in the maker scene in China, here is an infographic:

Makers in China and UK-infographic