Waverly Labs offers real-time translation with its Pilot earbuds

Sometimes you travel all the way to Barcelona, only to meet up with a startup that’s been operating right around the block. Waverly Labs is a 20 person Brooklyn-based company that specializes in real-time translation through a pair of Bluetooth earbuds.

The startup is on-hand at Mobile World Congress this week, showing off Pilot, its first piece of hardware, which launched at the end of last year. The product is the culmination of four years of research on both the hardware and software side of the equation, funded by a wildly success Indiegogo campaign that netted the company $4.4 million (around 3,000-percent of its initial goal).

The startup also scored an additional $1.07 mill in equity crowdfunding through StartEngine, rather than seeking out VC. VP of manufacturing, William Goethals tells TechCrunch Waverly went the full crowdfunding route so as to avoid having to give into the whims of investors. With all of the money it’s managed to drum up by way of excited consumers and the fact that it actually managed to launch a product, all of that appears to be a fairly sound business strategy — for the time being, at least.

Of course, Pilot is far from the only player in the real-time wearable translation space. The category is booming of late, including, most notably, Google’s Pixel Buds. Though unlike those headphones, this  offering is translation first. And honestly, they’re pretty big for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, so you probably wouldn’t want to use them your go-to headphones.

Also, unlike the Pixel Buds, the Pilot’s earbuds aren’t tethered together. In fact, they’re meant to be shared (but maybe pack an alcohol wipe, if other people’s earwax creeps you out). When you need help translating, you can hand the other bud to someone and have them sync it up with the own phone, and the Pilot will do the inverse translation, listening for speech and speaking the words into your ear.

Our demo was, admittedly, in a pretty loud environment, so the hardware has some trouble catching all the words, but the translation did come through fairly quickly. According to Goethals, the company developed its own translation software in-house, but uses a wide number of third party sources to cross check its accuracy.

The Pilot is currently up for purchase through Waverly’s site for $249 — nearly $100 more than Google’s admittedly mediocre Pixel Buds.