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Timekettle Technologies
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Mobile translation
Founded2016; 7 years ago (2016)
FounderLi Tian
Area served
  • Earbuds
  • Portable Mini-Translator
ServicesReal-time translation

Shenzhen Timkettle Technology Co. Ltd., 时空壶 (Timekettle) is an American technology company based in Shenzhen, China, that designs and sells consumer electronics specializing in real-time mobile translation.

Timekettle was founded in 2016 by Li Tian, and a Kickstarter campaign with the intention of fully funding the company's first product was launched soon after in 2017.

Timekettle offers several products designed for real-time translation services across over several languages, and support multiple regional accents.[1][2] These products are designed for compatibility with smartphones through Bluetooth or a physical connection through a charging port. Their products require both an internet connection and a dedicated translation app to function, which is developed by Timekettle.[3]


Timekettle was founded in 2016 by Li Tian briefly before the opening of a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of funding the first product from the company. The campaign ultimately succeeded and raised over five times the $50,000 goal, with the project closing at $276,869 pledged,[4][5] which helped Timekettle put their first pair of translator earbuds into production.

Tian, in an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine, stated that his parents hesitance to use traditional translation apps, as well as the Babel fish, a creature from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that provides real time translation from any language spoken to the user, are both major inspirations for founding Timekettle.[6] Tian also stated that a major goal of Timekettle's technology is to allow two people in conversation to "walk and talk like friends."[7]

Tian, in an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine, stated that a primary inspiration for Timekettle was to allow people with little to no language overlap to speak to one another in a natural way. Tian stated he was inspired by his parents and their hesitance to use translation apps, claiming them to be "awkward".

In 2019, following a round of seed funding, Timekettle raised ¥10 million from Jinxi Venture Capital Management and Huaruixin, two venture capital fund management groups.

Throughout 2019 Timekettle implemented a pre-sale project for the ZERO Portable, a plug-in style translator, in order to fund mass production.[8]

In 2020 a patent related to a method for identifying the voice sources from two separate headsets was granted to Tian.[9]

As of February 2020, Timekettle Technologies is estimated to be worth $20 million.[7]


WT2 Translator Series

WT2 Translator Series is a series of earbuds that specialize in real-time language translation. The earbuds are designed to be split among two people, where each user wears one earbud, however there are multiple supported ways that the earbuds can function.[10] The two speakers can then speak in 15 second bursts, which are translated and sent to the receiving earbud.[5] The speaker's earbud transfers a microphone input to the phone, which then uses an internet connection in order to retrieve a translation of what is being said. The translation is then sent to the listener's earbud. Each earbud can act as a speaker or listener. Timekettle claims that this design is more natural than solely using an app or a single headset, as it "will cause one party to fail to speak through the phone."[11]

The WT2 Translator Series, unlike other real-time translator earbuds, can simultaneously transcribe conversations directly to a user's phone. However, unlike other earbuds, the WT2 earbuds do not support users interrupting one another.[1]

As of 2020, Timekettle has released two earbuds under the WT2 series.

WT2 Plus AI Realtime Translator Earbuds

The WT2 Plus AI Realtime Translator Earbuds are the premium option under the WT2 series. It supports 40 languages and 93 accents, and connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth and a dedicated application. The WT2 Plus, unlike the WT2 Lite, uses noise cancellation in an attempt to understand two speakers more clearly.[6]

WT2 Lite AI Instant Translator Earbuds

The WT2 Lite AI Instant Translator Earbuds are the cheaper, consumer option under the WT2 series. The WT2 Lite supports 10 languages and 59 accents, and like the WT2 Plus, the WT2 Lite connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth and a dedicated application. Unlike the WT2 Plus, The WT2 Lite does not come with noise cancellation.

ZERO Portable

The ZERO Portable is a mobile translation device that physically connects to a users phone via the charging port. It will automatically display translations to the user's screen via the proprietary application.[3] The ZERO is designed to act as a more sensitive receiver compared to traditional phone microphones, which allows it to more accurately pick up voices in noisy environments.[12] The ZERO Portable is designed to be small enough to fit inside a standard credit card slot in a wallet, and comes with a carrying case the size of a credit card.


Devin Coldewey, in a review after an interview with former Timekettle Marketing Specialist Wells Tu facilitated through a prototype of the WT2 Plus Earbuds, stated that the earbuds were "admittedly a rough draft."[13] He criticized the latency of the device, however noted that both the "spotty wireless connection" at the venue where the interview took place, as well as the fact that the earbuds had not been fully optimized for latency, as factors in the lag during conversation. However, Coldewey complimented the earbuds as "ultra-simple," praising the lack of "fuss or interface to deal with."[13]

James Smythe rated the WT2 Plus earbuds well, praising the overall performance. He did, however, note the relatively niche market, stating that most of the appeal from consumers would not come from the average tourist.[14]

Mami Kashii, after testing the ZERO Portable, praised the quality of the microphone within the device, and spoke highly of the integrated noise cancellation that helped to eliminate background noise when the phone normally couldn't during the test.[8]

Alex Birch, in a review of the WT2 Plus, applauded the performance of the device, saying "it feels very fluid and quite freeing." He did criticize the concept of needing to give someone an earbud for the device to work properly, stating "it’s an awkward icebreaker. It may help to use Speaker Mode first and then offer the earbud as they seem more interested." [10]


Since 2017, Timekettle has received several design awards.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2018 "Wearable Translator" IF Product Design Award Won
2018 WT2 Real-time Earphone Translator Good Design Award Won
2019 Translator [Zero] Good Design Award Won
2019 WT2 Plus Real-time Earphone Translator CES 2019 Innovation Award[15] Honoree
2019 WT2 Plus Real-time Earphone Translator Shenzhen Global Design Award[16] Silver


  1. 1.0 1.1 Schwartz, Karen (2019-11-07). "The Latest in Translation Devices". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  2. Hirn, Wolfgang (2020). Shenzhen. Campus Verlag GmbH. p. 126. ISBN 9783593511924.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Hands on with the Timekettle Zero translator: 40 language translation tool in your pocket Review". ZDNet. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  4. "WT2 Real-time Earphone Translator". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Turner, Adam (2019-01-08). "WT2 Plus translators break down the language barrier". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Field, Hayden (2019-01-11). "5 Incredible Startups We Found at CES". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Flying motorbikes and wearable translators: new innovations coming out of China's Silicon Valley". The Passionate Eye. 2020-02-09. Retrieved 2020-05-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 "音声翻訳アプリを凌駕!193カ国で使える超小型通訳機に大注目". GIGAMEN ギガメン (in 日本語). 2020-04-28. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  9. Tian, Li (2020-03-31). "Method and Device for Identifying Bluetooth Headset Voice Source" (PDF). googleapis.com. Retrieved 2020-05-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Timekettle WT2 Plus AI Language Translator Earbuds review – The Gadgeteer". Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  11. "WT2 Real-time Earphone Translator". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  12. "Translator [Zero]". Good Design Award. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Timekettle's WT2 real-time translation earpieces enable ordinary conversation across language barriers". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  14. "TimeKettle WT2 Plus Real-time AI translator Earbuds Review - An in-ear real-time translator". Mighty Gadget Blog: UK Technology News and Reviews. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  15. "Innovation Award Honorees - CES 2020". Consumer Technology Assosciation. Retrieved 2020-05-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. "WT2 Real-time Earphone Translator". s-d-a.org. Retrieved 2020-05-27.

External Links

This article "Timekettle" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical. Articles taken from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be accessed on Wikipedia's Draft Namespace.