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.

Leftover travel cash? There’s an app for that

Android phone with US currency

At the time of writing, I have a curious variety of foreign currency stashed away from recent travels in nice plastic wallets (for want of a better system): China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iraq, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and yes, my home country, the UK (on an unrelated note, it’s interesting how similar the notes are, and how easy it is to confuse them).

A new app, Spendal, promises to do away with all that, through visually showing exactly what to take out of one’s wallet, if I have understood correctly, meaning no leftover cash from foreign travels.

It sounds intriguing, and it appears there is a problem in need of some sort of a solution: Spendal’s landing page reveals that $156 in foreign travel cash is what the average UK citizen has dusting in the back of a drawer (according to Zopa Study). I’ve probably got that wedged in my pocket alone.

Perhaps a nicer remedy would be to give the surplus coins to charity, or to somebody less privileged encountered when travelling.

New mobile app will help locate freelancers and hotspots

Freelancers at a table

You move to a city, you have a great idea (or perhaps not so great), and you just want to get it done. Only that you can’t, because you can’t find the right people and place to make it happen.

Based in KL, Malaysia, I have no idea where to identify nearby freelance talent, and Twitter hasn’t exactly produced results. Looking for a developer recently, the only people who answered a plea on Twitter were all based in India. Which was fine, of course, but where was the local talent that I needed with whom I could collaborate face to face?

Nomad Tracker, from the team at NoBorder Productions, could be the solution:

  • Spend less time searching and more time collaborating with creative people who live nearby
  • Locate hotspots where freelancers and remote workers prefer to go

I’ve registered my interest at nomadtracker.com (and will correspondingly receive advice on remote work every Thursday), so I guess it’s a case of watch this space…