The Waverly Labs Ambassador Interpreter device provides real-time translations for up to 20 languages and 42 dialects! The Ambassador can come in very handy for all aspects of life from work to personal, travel and education. While nothing is perfect the Ambassador certainly has some of the right stuff to etch itself into your daily life.
If you remember the scene in Star Trek the Undiscovered Country; Kirk and McCoy are on trial in the high Klingon court for the alleged murder of Chancellor Gorkon. While getting grilled in the hot seat Kirk and McCoy are holding universal translator devices to their ears that allowed them to speak and be understood by the Klingons in real-time. These universal translators must have been incredibly accurate seeing as they were used in the high Klingon court of law!
Kidding aside, a real-time universal translator device would of course be an incredible addition to life enhancing gadgets. Theoretically everyone could understand one another fluently regardless of language or dialect. While the idea has floated around for some time it is a device that has only recently been available at the consumer level in a form that actually works. Lets dig into some of the deets.
What is the Ambassador?
The Ambassador Interpreter is a single over-the-ear headphone to be used in tandem with your smartphone Ambassador app. 3 different translation modes are available; Listen, Lecture & Converse. The Ambassador is sold in pairs so you can communicate with another person real-time. You can also use just 1 if you like to teach yourself a new language or just translate for yourself. You are able to pair up to 4 to a single phone. Supports iOS & Android.
Waverly Labs has provided the Ambassador Interpreters to us so that we may bring you our hands-on review of our real world experience along with the good and bad of it all.
How does the Ambassador Interpreter work?
The Ambassador uses speech recognition, speech synthesis and machine translations to convert your speech. You will need to have an internet connection and a Bluetooth compatible phone for the device to work properly. Once you’re setup and paired, the process is quick and easy; just press the Click-to-talk button which is pushing inward towards your head, listen for the chime and then begin speaking.
The over-the-ear piece will listen, send the info to your phone via Bluetooth, your smartphone then sends that data to the Waverly labs server and comes back to you translated. The round-trip typically only takes a few seconds. The app will also keep a running chat message style dialogue transcript of your translations.
Pairing the Ambassador over Bluetooth is easy and predictable. However once the Ambassador unit times out, you’ll need to close the app, turn on the Ambassador and then fire up the app again for it to be recognized.
Waverly Labs Ambassador lists 20 languages and 42 dialects at the time of our coverage including: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Polish, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Hebrew, Thai, Vietnamese and Dutch.
- Over-the-ear form factor so you can safely share it hygienically
- It’s about the size of an egg. Virtually the same size as an Airpod case.
- Wider antenna with 2 microphones for higher accuracy
- Up to 4 hours of battery life, Micro USB rechargeable
- Continuous and Push-To-Talk settings
- LED visual feedback indicator lights on the side
- 2 Ambassador units per package
- Volume control rocker, doubles as power button
Battery life was decent. Though if you plan on using it heavily we’re not sure it will make the 4hr mark. Your mileage will vary depending on usage. We didn’t run out of power during testing but the units did deplete fully once we were done. But charge times were pretty quick luckily.
Listen mode – For yourself or you and anyone in front of you
Listen mode is to interpret someone standing near you, within 6 feet/2 meters. This mode also works very well to help teach yourself another language. Say what you’d like and then repeatan por favor to practice your translated sentences. You can even have the Ambassador read it to you to learn the correct pronunciation. Listen mode seemed to work quite well and is great for travel.
You can try and speak the translated words yourself or if you’re slightly less confident, simply show the other person the transcription log (displayed as a familiar instant messenger style chat window) so they don’t actually need a unit.
Lecture mode – Televised or Speaker based translation performance
Lecture mode allows you to receive translated broadcast or lecture style speech. This includes radio, tv and podium style speeches. The problem here is that the speech recognition and translation aren’t yet able to completely keep up with natural speech speeds coupled with the fact that the speaker isn’t directly next to or in front of you to get clear audio reception.
Most times the unit wasn’t able to hear anything when trying to understand a tv broadcast or speech in an auditorium. You can get better results trying to translate a youtube video where you can control the volume and clarity to an extent, as well as being able to rewind and try again. That said, to get the unit to hear the tv or pc audio we needed to put the earpiece very close to the output speaker. The device is able to pick up in-person speech much better. People can speak very quickly and the and the device just isn’t able to keep up. It will miss multiple words or even entire sentences.
Converse – Real-Time performance up to 4 people near you
In Converse mode you are interacting with a person near you that also have an Ambassador unit; it worked about as well as Listen mode. Ideally you’ll already have the 2 paired to your phone (you can pair up to 4 on a single phone) and turned on so you can simply hand the second unit to other person and begin conversing immediately.
There were times where the person is speaking too quickly or perhaps isn’t as articulate as they should be then the Ambassador can miss or misinterpret speech. However the performance is pretty good and for the most part people are able to speak naturally though it would seem that this should get better over time.
We are not linguists and cannot account for every nuance in all the languages but we were impressed with the translations the Ambassador provided. Our testing was completed using both Android and iOS using each speakers first language in both directions; English, Spanish Colombian, Korean.
What worked well
We enjoyed using Listen mode and this is perhaps our favorite. You only need 1 Ambassador device. You can translate and teach yourself other languages and you are also able to translate someone else’s speech you are communicating with up to 6 feet or 2 meters distance.
Converse mode worked pretty well too but there are variables here that can slow the process down. Not everyone speaks at the same cadence so different speech patterns and accents can cause issues. You’ll need to ready up 2 devices and then theoretically teach the other person how to use it and fumble around; it can be clumsy if you and the other person aren’t sitting at a table or desk together in a formal setting.
We were quite impressed with the text-to-speech pronunciation and fluidity. It was pretty easy to understand in both Spanish as well as Korean. Being able to play back the translated text in the native tongue from your saved conversation log is invaluable.
The transcription/translation for Korean took a few fractions of a second longer in some cases but the accuracy of translation is some of the best we’ve seen around to date. This is not to say that everything is always 100% grammatically correct or understood properly in either direction by the Ambassador. But as time goes on the machine learning translation services will continue to learn, revise their dictionaries and get better according to Waverly Labs.
What could be better
While the device is compact and relatively lightweight it is still an over-the-ear form factor with a plastic hook that you wrap around your ear. It’s easy to put on, but we found ourselves occasionally swatting the Ambassador off our ear unintentionally. This is subjective but it feels slightly odd to be wearing a single side over-the-ear unit. The Ambassador’s earloop is a right-ear only design.
The power button and volume controls are located on a single rocker, easy enough but it did take us some time to get used to the no look operation. The indicator or status lights are located on the bottom edge of the Ambassador so you’ll need to remove the device to double check the status lights. It is much more convenient to already have your Bluetooth turned on and have the app open on your phone so you can visually see the connection live.
The unit will eventually time out and turn itself off after a few minutes. You’ll need to close and relaunch the app for it to be recognized again once the Ambassador reaches the time-out threshold. Luckily this is probably something that can be solved with a firmware and/or app tweak.
Google Translate vs Waverly Ambassador Interpreter
Why would I want to use this over a Free Google Translate? Google translate has proven to be something that everyone jumps to for a quick on-demand translation, primarily because it’s free and it’s there. However, if you ever actually needed to lean on a google translate you know that grammatically the translations can be atrocious.
You not only sound odd in the foreign language; you are relying on some guess-ti-mation by the other person to understand the jist what you are speaking about. We have found Waverly’s Ambassador Interpreter is much more user-friendly overall. The Ambassador felt more intuitive to use, responsive in that it will spit back translations to you quicker and more accurately. The Ambassador is also more fluent and natural when speaking the text back to you, which is really great.
That’s a wrap
Personal translators have come a decent way over the past few years and Waverly’s Ambassador does pretty well being functional without being too cumbersome. While nothing is perfect we really enjoy using the Listen mode which allows you to use just a single unit. The Ambassador Interpreter makes it easier to learn another language or even just translate sentences on-demand for a single purpose in everyday life. Verdict? Sounds like a Yay!
Waverly Labs Ambassador Interpreter $150.00 (a pair) available in blk and wine red.