I remember that when I was a teenager, being enthused about the Babel fish translator featured in the fantasy book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy authored by Douglas Adams.
Characters from different worlds would pop one in their ear and it would enable them to communicate seamlessly. The wireless Timekettle’s M3 Translation Earbuds puts me in mind of that. While not exactly a Babel fish, it is perhaps a step towards that.
What is in the box?
In the box, there is a pair of Timekettle M3 earbuds in a rechargeable case that looks very much like the Apple earbuds. A tiny LED light t on the front indicates when they are powered and battery life. It feels comfy in the hand, easy to carry, and the buds are so snug that they don’t rattle. It comes with 3 sizes of silicone tips which can be donned to accommodate ear size and a charging cable. And of course a user manual and a Timekettle Fish Card with 30 fish – the currency used by Timekettle to buy offline usage.
- 3 different sizes of ear tips
- User manual
- Quick start guide
- X30 Fish card -Offline pack only – comes with 30 credits.
The idea of the product is that each person pops an earbud into their ear, and via Bluetooth the buds connect to the app, so that they can chat. The translation, they say, is done simultaneously and so it emulates the flow of a conversation.
So in order to test the product I met up with an experience Spanish teacher and Spanish-speaking tour guide. Once we got our head around the setup, we found that the claim of simultaneous translation was almost spot on save a delay here and there, and the sound quality was excellent.
What wasn’t spot on was that at times it misinterpreted the words and so momentum. It may be that at those times I or she mumbled or spoke too fast, I can’t say. What I can say though is that we did manage a full conversation.
How many languages does the M3 Translator Earbuds support?
The Timekettle can handle 40 languages including Hindi, Hebrew and Icelandic, and even caters for an impressive 93 accents. These accents refer to whole countries rather than regions. So for instance, if for example, you would like to chat in Spanish to someone in Argentina, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela or indeed Spain the technology adapts.
Is it one on one only?
There are three modes.
1. Touch mode – best for one-to one.
This is the default mode and is great for one-on-one conversations. Each person wears an earbud and touches the earbud to activate and get the conversation going.
2. Listen mode
This is the mode to use when you need to listen more than speak. For instance in a lecture or in a boardroom.
3. Speaker mode
When there is a gathering of several people you can activate this mode and the translation will be delivered via the earbuds and through the smartphone speaker so everyone in the group can hear.
Can you use this offline?
The device allows for some languages to be used offline with an Offline Package. There are 13 available and to use them you have to buy them fish coins, the name of the credits you can buy. Five fish coins cost £9.99, 10 for £18.99, and 15 for £27.99.
Perks of the Timekettle M3
The technology allows for active noise cancellation, great sound quality and can be used to listen to music with ANC and the in-built microphone means you can take incoming calls.
The drawback of the Timekettle M3
It’s hard to be spontaneous, and there are times when the translation goes wrong. Also, one wonders about how to keep the earbuds sanitised. I keep a pack of wipes to hand.
Verdict: The Timekettle M3 Translator Earbuds are a great idea best used for those times when a conversation is predetermined rather than spontaneous so that you can set it up ahead of time. Once done though you can get a decent level of communication going. I am looking forward to seeing how this tech blossoms.
How much: The Timekettle M3 costs £160 but I note they are currently on sale for £120.00 on their website.