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CNBC: Google's New 'Pixel Buds' Suck (yahoo.com) 100

Google's new Pixel Buds "are really bad" and "not worth buying," according to CNBC's technology products editor: The stand-out feature of Google Pixel Buds is that they're supposed to be able to translate spoken languages in near real-time. In my real-world tests, however, that wasn't the case at all. I took the Pixel Buds out on the streets of Manhattan, speaking to a Hungarian waiter in Little Italy, multiple vendors in Chinatown and more. If you press the right earbud and say "help me speak Chinese," for example, the buds will launch Google Translate, you can speak what you'd like to ask someone in another language, and a voice will read out the translated speech through your smartphone's speakers. Then, when someone replies, you'll hear that response through the Pixel Buds.

The microphone on the Pixel Buds is really bad, so it barely picked up my voice queries that I wanted to translate. I stood on the side of the road in Chinatown repeating myself at least 10 times trying to get the phone to pick up my speech in order to begin translation. It barely worked, even if I took the buds out and spoke directly into the microphone on the right earbud, and often only translated half of what I was trying to ask. In a quiet place, I was able to allow someone to respond to me, after which I'd hear the English translation through the headphones. That was neat, but it barely ever actually worked that way. To mitigate this, I found it was just easier to manually open the Google translate app, speak into my phone's microphone, and then let someone else also speak right into my phone. This executed the translation nearly perfectly, and meant that I didn't need the Pixel Buds at all.

The article ends by answering the question, Should you buy them? "Nope. There's nothing I recommend about the Pixel Buds.

"They're cheap-feeling and uncomfortable, and you're better off using the Google Translate app on a phone instead of trying to fumble with the headphones while trying to translate a conversation. The idea is neat, but it just doesn't work well enough to recommend to anyone on any level."
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CNBC: Google's New 'Pixel Buds' Suck

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    No way. I'm totally driving around Mars on my 3D printed car so I can go visit Elon Musk at his private Mars retirement home.

    Yup.

    Nothing is ever over-hyped.

  • Whoda thunk it?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    do they still spy on you?

    • I have never heard of Google spying on anyone. I am willing to bet that this is because you don't know the definition of the word "spy". By definition spying is a covert action. If a hot woman says to me "If you buy me this outfit I'll let you watch me take it off" I am watching her do it with her consent, not spying.
      • Re: Google (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ChatHuant ( 801522 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @04:53PM (#55582819)

        I have never heard of Google spying on anyone.

        I'm afraid this only proves you're out of touch. Neither Google nor Slashdot are telling me they'll track me when visiting Slashdot; yet Slashdot notifies Google of my activity. Neither Google, nor my credit card company, nor the supermarket where I'm buying something tell me my purchase, even though not on-line will still end up in Google's databases. When Google cars drove in neighborhoods and "accidentally on purpose" intercepted WiFi activity for years, they never told me (or anyone) anything - until an audit requested by Germany's data protection agency caught them. So describing Google's activity as spying is perfectly correct.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Outside of quibbling about the definition...
      If they're offering translation services, then they are clearly sending what they hear back to the central servers. That kind of computation can't be done without a huge database and significant computation. And this can only work (and be improved) if they retain the information and continue processing it.

      So clearly they are sending the information back to their servers and retaining it. And if you don't realize this is happening, you don't understand at all ho

  • If you have a Pixel phone, can’t you do all this without the earbuds? Or is there some sort of artificial restriction which checks for the existence of some connected earbuds?

  • Questionable test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mridoni ( 228377 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @02:40AM (#55579707)

    So, you take a brand new technology, that is expected to have some rough edges, you test it in the worst possibile environment (noisy and crowded streets with a lot of traffic) and you're surprised of the result? Moreover you used: a) a language (Chinese) that due to its nature is really difficult to recognize efficiently. b) a language (Italian) as spoken by Italian-Americans of several generations, so with a strong accent, regional influences and maybe a few grammatical errors in the mix (I'm Italian-Italian myself so I know what could be expected).

    I'm not saying that Google buds are great, maybe they really do suck, but this sounds more like a rant than a well-informed test. Then, of course, can debate whether Apple's approach (bringing a technology on the market when it's mature, instead of jumping first on the bandwagon) works better or it's just a strategy to make your competitors fail in a series of inevitable pitfalls.

    • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @02:59AM (#55579739)

      Right. I have zero doubt or cynicism as to the sincerity of this post. But all of the complaints are merely bug reports, more or less. That is to say, the goals and approach of the technology is sound, and once the rough edges are worked out, it will be a game changer. The current state of the audio filtering technology is not up snuff. So be it. These real-world tests will only make it stronger. The poster uses strong language (sucks), but the frustrations are helpful and will only improve the tech.

      • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @03:52AM (#55579823)

        The current state of the audio filtering technology is not up snuff.

        But all of the complaints are merely bug reports, more or less.

        Do not assume this is simply a software problem. To perform proper audio filtering, multiple microphones are required. Dedicated logic would then typically perform the filtering - a CPU would require too much power. If the Pixel Buds do not do this correctly now then it is highly unlikely a future software update will correct the problems. This is not a bug report but a fundamental hardware design flaw.

        It is possible future hardware will perform better. But the current hardware is what it is - a poor purchase according to the article. It might be great for you but if not, do not assume the ear-buds you purchase today will improve tomorrow.

      • by jareth-0205 ( 525594 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @08:00AM (#55580467) Homepage

        Right. I have zero doubt or cynicism as to the sincerity of this post. But all of the complaints are merely bug reports, more or less. That is to say, the goals and approach of the technology is sound, and once the rough edges are worked out, it will be a game changer. The current state of the audio filtering technology is not up snuff. So be it. These real-world tests will only make it stronger. The poster uses strong language (sucks), but the frustrations are helpful and will only improve the tech.

        Do we really care if it's a fundamental problem or a bug, as consumers? I care about what it does now, if I'm going to pay for it now... and I would hope that reviews do the same. It may get improved, but there's no guarantee, and indeed Google's habit of dropping products means I really need to be happy with it now. If it gets improved in the future then I'll reconsider, but for now these seem to be dud products.

        And I say this while posting from a new Pixelbook... I've been generally pretty positive about Googles slew of new products, but this one seems not ready.

        • Do we really care if it's a fundamental problem or a bug, as consumers? I care about what it does now, if I'm going to pay for it now.

          IF you already bought it, you only care what it does now. If you're trying to decide on buying it now, or waiting for a future model, then yes it matters if it is a fundamental problem, or if it is a bug.

          For example, personal jet packs have fundamental problems as a product. It is unlikely you'll see this as a product. Whereas self-driving cars still have bugs, but are a fundamentally sound idea and we should anticipate increased features and capabilities being offered in the short term.

          Same with flying car

      • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @09:24AM (#55580815)

        The current state of the audio filtering technology is not up snuff. So be it. These real-world tests will only make it stronger.

        And when audio filtering does get good, the world will finally have a hearing aid that works.

    • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @05:25AM (#55580031) Homepage
      They're asking whether you should buy them or not. That they might work in lab conditions is great, but using (not testing) in a realistic setting to do realistic tasks they're clearly short.

      Here's MacRumor's take on them [youtube.com]. They pretty much come to the same conclusion - skip the Pixel Buds and if you want this kind of thing, then pick the AirPods. Now yes, it's MacRumors but they've recommended 3rd party above Apple in the past.

      For myself I have a set of Jaybird BlueBuds X, the first version pre-Logitech, and use them with some Comply Foam [complyfoam.com] ear tips. Sounds great, and for me whilst I've not actually owned any 'truly wireless' I feel I'd prefer the cord which I links the ear pieces together, purely so I can keep track of of them and not lose anything. Other people's preference my vary of course.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      No, the problem is they're trying to justify the purchase.

      First off, the Pixel buds cost as much as the Apple AirPods. Granted, the AirPods don't do too much - they are somewhat decent earbuds with a decent microphone so you can chat with someone on the phone.

      Second, they're not "wireless" - there's a wire that runs between the two earbuds. Unlike the AirPods, each of which is completely independent of the other, the pixel buds are attached to each other with a wire and cutting it breaks them. It's not a sa

      • You don't know what the term wireless means in this context. By your definition all over the ear Bluetooth Headphones are not wireless.
      • Perhaps Google should've just borrowed the Bluetooth technology from Apple and worked out a deal to OEM Apple's version cheaper.

        Not going to happen. Apple wouldn't even talk to Tesla about software for their center console, you think they'd talk to Google about making their phone[ accessorie]s better?

      • It wouldn't be called "bluetooth" if it was something you had to get from Apple!

        LOL durrrr

        Also, Apple doesn't do those types of OEM deals.

    • by Kneo24 ( 688412 )

      Consider that these "noisy" and not perfect environments are real case scenarios that the average person might try to use them for. These were given to a person to test out like the average person would. No one expects these type of people to review them in the optimal conditions.

      • The average person would try it indoors and outdoors, and not be surprised that it doesn't work on a busy street. They would not even know to be surprised that it lacks magic, they would have expected that from the beginning!

    • So, you take a brand new technology, that is expected to have some rough edges, you test it in the worst possibile environment (noisy and crowded streets with a lot of traffic) and you're surprised of the result?

      You're surprised that people might want to use these devices in the real world? Sounds like Google was, too.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      If they're rough around the edges, they shouldn't be sold as a new product, but only given away to a test audience.

      Microphones have been able to do noise cancellation for a few decades now, especially things that close to someone's jawbone, that shouldn't be an issue anymore today.

    • Counter-example: pretty much any bluetooth headset. They seem to work well for voice communications, even in noisy environment. Beamforming for earbuds/headsets is actually pretty simple as you can be reasonably assured of where the wearer's mouth is relative to your microphones. And the processing is quite mundane, even being a "freebie" feature in nearly every BT chipset (CSR, TI, etc). A few weeks of tuning, and your POLQA score should be well over 3.5 unless you really 1) suck at tuning the paramete
    • by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @11:44AM (#55581395)

      Those are real-world conditions in which real-time translation would actually be... you know... useful. The thing is nothing more than a bad gimmick if it only works in a quiet old-timey lecture hall on properly enunciated, grammatically perfect church latin.

      If *I* go out, in my city, the top non-english languages I'm going to hear are Chinese, Tagalog, and Spanish; all spoken in a wide variety of accents and dialects owing to what region within China, the Philippines, or Latin America the speaker (or his/her parents) originated, how long and where they've been in the US, their socio-economic class, and so on. And yes, I'm going to hear them on noisy streets and in restaurants and shops and bars.

      If a device that bills itself as a realtime Star Trek style universal translator can't cope with those languages and conditions; it's useless for that purpose. I may as well just try sticking a fish in my ear.

    • Doesn't seem questionable to me. It seems like the Pixel Buds just suck in real world usage.

      It's irrelevant if they can translate when used in a noise isolated room with a native speaker who speaks perfectly.
    • I agree, the real question is if this works well indoors, in an office environment. Is it ready to be a basic business tool? After you're already using it in a quiet environment, then later generations might have the feature of working well out on the street too.

      Just like, early cell phones dropped calls whenever you drove (they were too big to carry far!) under a bridge or past a tall building! And now people whine if they don't get three bars when surrounded by obstacles.

    • a language (Italian) as spoken by Italian-Americans of several generations, so with a strong accent, regional influences and maybe a few grammatical errors in the mix (I'm Italian-Italian myself so I know what could be expected).

      Not to mention that Italian is mostly sign language with some noises thrown in...

      (Sorry--couldn't resist)

  • So if the slaughterbots work as well as the pixel buds we should have nothing to worry about. It's reassuring to know it was all just advertising B.S.
  • by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @03:38AM (#55579789)
    The announcement of these things was buried pretty far under the rest of the announcements. I remember tech sites getting there eyes on it and screeching to the high heavens about how great they were going to be, and how you could translate languages without and internet connection and it would work perfectly and...

    And of course not. If someone, anyone, had that tech they'd demonstrate it on stage front and center, hyping it to the high heavens. Instead it's just a crappy pair of earbuds, that most every reviewer out there thinks is crappy for reference, just in case you're getting cognitive dissonance and trying to rationalize how this bad review is obviously biased or something. Of course they buried the announcement and hoped no one would notice, they knew it these things were crap.
    • z0mg, we don't have Universal Translators yet?! Are you sure it isn't just some conspiracy?! Maybe the aliens don't want us to have it, did you consider that?! Maybe that is why it isn't center stage. Try it and it's probe time! lol

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I basically feel Google simply added very little to a $150 pair of wireless buds that would add much function to them just being average sounding ear buds.
    For me they would compare to a $20 pair of wired buds and I just do not see spending the dollars on wireless technology when the rest of the ear buds suffer. At the Apple Air Pods do audio quality half way decent and you can take calls with them. I think Google tried to one up everyone and they failed.

  • That Google, or anyone, is pedaling an item which is superfluous because another item already does the same thing, and better in this case, isn't surprising.
    Nor is the fact that thousands upon thousands of people will buy said product, then complain when it doesn't work even though they already had another item which does work.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "An ex-plumber from Australia invented a $179 earpiece that can translate 8 languages in real-time"
    http://www.businessinsider.com/an-ex-plumber-invented-a-140-earpiece-that-translates-in-real-time-2017-6?r=US&IR=T&IR=T

    Fta : "Lingmo International, a startup based in West Gosford north of Sydney, launched its TranslateOne2One earpiece at the UN's Artificial Intelligence for Good Summit in Geneva, revealing that IBM Watson machine learning technology had been used for its algorithms.
    Traditionally, conv

    • I'm not going to click links, but I do have a question... is it just weasel words when he says it doesn't require a connection to your phone or wifi? I mean, is he saying it has its own phone, or that it is actually not networked at all? Not clear. Vitally important to categorize the claims you quoted, and yet, left unsaid. I just assume that means it has its own cell phone built in and is not an interesting product.

  • Shouting (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @08:11AM (#55580511) Homepage Journal

    Did you try shouting? That's what you're supposed to do when foreigners don't understand, isn't it?

    • Actually, everyone understands english as long as you speak it slowly, clearly, and loudly.

      Years ago, I heard a comedian imagining how this would be if others did they same...

      French Person: Ou est la salle de bain?
      American Person: Huh?
      French Person: Ou. Est. La. Salle. De. Bain.
      American Person: I'm sorry but I don't--
      French Person: OU! EST! LA! SALLE! DE! BAIN!

      (By the way, apologies to any francophile for any mistakes I've made. I'm depending on my high school french from quite awhile ago...)

      • I'm depending on my high school french from quite awhile ago

        And elementary school English, apparently.

  • Suction is the way they stay in the ears.

  • I am a native English speaker living in Hungary and I can say without reservation that Google Translate is really bad at Hungarian. It can handle individual words ok sometimes but anything beyond that and it falls apart quickly. So even without sound issues, it's not really something you can use for any communication beyond the most basic.

    • While the audio issues are a hardware problem, the translation engine is in Google's cloud. In the last few years I've seen their translations into english go from an incomprehensible joke into something that's usually intelligible, if oddly worded. Hungarian is probably not their highest priority language.

    • Some examples:

      Hungarian:"I wish to buy some tobacco" becomes
      English: "My hovercraft is full of eels, so do you want to come back to my place, bouncy-bouncy?"
  • As per the title, this is a big let down for me...I was really, really looking forward to being able to use these to converse with my mother-in-law and some of my extended family. High hopes dashed.

    I should have known better, but with Google the hype is usually kept to a dull roar and at the product (when it finally appears) is more-or-less as claimed. Still, I can hope they get better as time goes by.

    • by ELCouz ( 1338259 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @11:48AM (#55581415)
      I was really, really looking forward to being able to use these to converse with my mother-in-law....
      You are lucky ... most of us want exactly the opposite!
      • I was really, really looking forward to being able to use these to converse with my mother-in-law....
        You are lucky ... most of us want exactly the opposite!

        Heh, I know, and I was expecting a comment or two along these lines. :)

        I guess I'm lucky...my MIL is really nice and isn't a troublemaker like a lot of them are.

        My first wife's mom, however, was a total nightmare, just a horrible person in nearly every way, so maybe I was due for a good one after that.

        • I like both my in-laws, and my wife gets along with my mom (and got along with my dad when he was alive) as well. But that does sometimes seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

          Heck - my family likes my wife enough that I think, if we were ever to split, they’d stick with her and cut me off.

          • I like both my in-laws, and my wife gets along with my mom

            That's a truly wonderful thing, and yeah, unfortunately it does seem to be the exception to the rule.

            My FIL was a hell of a nice guy, sadly he passed away a few years ago.My mother didn't live long enough to meet my (now) wife, but I've no doubt they would have doted on each other.

    • If you read the summary, you can just hold out your phone with the translate app open and it does work. You could even just buy a high quality microphone and speaker for the phone, like for videoconferencing.

      This review doesn't tell you anything about being able to achieve the goals of your use case, it is only saying that the product "Pixel Buds" aren't really very good at it. But they're also not the important part for your use case!

      • If you read the summary, you can just hold out your phone with the translate app open and it does work.

        This is something I've wondered about- does it work both ways? My MIL speaks Chinese, Vietnamese, and Khmer (Cambodian)...could she speak Vietnamese into the phone so it could go back and forth? Would we need two phones, mine set to take input in English and output Vietnamese, and hers set to take input in Vietnamese and output English?

        I can speak English into an ipad and have it read the Vietnamese translation out loud to her, but going back and forth never really seemed to work correctly.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @08:21PM (#55583925)

    In other words, they copy everything Apple does and poorly at that.

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