I wore the Meta Ray Bans in Montreal to test their AI translation skills. It didn't go well.

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Imagine you've just arrived in another country, you don't speak the language, and you stumble across a construction zone. The air is thick with dust. you are tired You still smell like an airplane. You try to ignore the jackhammers to understand what the signs say: Do you need to cross the street, or walk another block, or turn around?

I was Absolutely Such is the case this week, but I came prepared. I flew to Montreal to spend two days testing the new AI translation feature on Meta's Ray-Ban smart sunglasses. Within 10 minutes of setting out on my first walk, I ran into a barrage of confusing orange twirl signs.

The AI ​​translation feature is meant to give wearers a fast, hands-free way to understand text written in foreign languages, so I couldn't have devised a better pop quiz to show how it works in real time.

As one of the diggers fumbled, I looked at a sign and began asking my glasses to tell me what it said. Before I could finish, an annoying construction worker started yelling at me and pointing north, and I walked across the street.

Photo: Kate Nibbs

At the beginning of my AI adventure, I'd come across the biggest limitation of this translation software—it doesn't tell you what people say at the moment. It can only parse the written word.

I already knew the feature was just writing at the time, so it wasn't a surprise. But soon, I would succumb to its other, less obvious obstacles. Over the next 48 hours, I tested AI translation on a variety of street signs, business signs, advertisements, historical plaques, religious literature, children's books, tourism pamphlets, and menus—with very varied results.

Sometimes it was worth it, like when he told me the book I picked up for my son, Trois Beaux Bébés, There were about three beautiful children. (Correct.) He told me over and over again outside It meant “open”, which frankly I already knew, but I wanted to put some order to it.

Other times, my robot translator wasn't up to the task. He told me that the sign for the infamous adult movie theater Cinéma L'Amour translates to … “Cinéma L'Amour.” (F for effort — Google Translate at least turned it into “cinema love.”)

Courtesy of Kate Knibbs

At the restaurant, I struggled to get him to read every item on the menu. For example, instead of telling me all the different burger options at the brewpub, he just told me there were “burgers and sandwiches,” and refused to be more specific despite my wheeling.

When I went to an Italian place the next night, it gave me a broad summary of the offerings rather than breaking them down in detail—I was told there were “grilled meat skewers,” but not, for example, that there were There were ducks. Confit, lamb, and beef options, or how much they cost.

Overall, right now, AI translation is more of a whimsical party trick than a genuinely useful travel tool for foreign climates.

How it works (or doesn't)

To use AI translation, a Spectacles wearer needs to say the following magic words: “Hey Meta, look at …” and then ask it to translate what they're looking at.

The glasses take a snapshot of whatever is in front of you, and then tell you about the text after a few seconds of processing. I expected more straightforward translations, but it rarely breaks down word-for-word. Instead, it interprets what it sees or presents a broad summary.

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