CES 2017: Danny’s amazing earbud adventure

Danny Manu Image copyright Danny Manu

It sounds like a game-changing innovation: earbuds that auto-translate other languages. But what was supposed to be their big coming out week isn't going quite as planned.

If you're a tech company wanting to grab the world's attention this week, then Las Vegas could be the worst place to be.

Why? Well in the biggest CES yet with nearly 4,000 exhibitors you really have to shout very loud to be heard above the hubbub.

If you're a giant company like Sony or Samsung, you pour your marketing millions into spectacular press conferences and ridiculously lavish show floor exhibits where visitors have to wade through deep pile carpet while being deafened by loud music and shouty demos.

So, to arrive here as a one-man start-up with an innovative idea and try to get some attention requires both courage and optimism. Luckily Danny Manu has both in spades.

When I met this young man from Manchester on the Las Vegas strip, he was desperately tired. His cheap flight from the UK had been delayed by eight hours on a Miami stopover - so he'd dashed from the airport to his AirBnB to drop his luggage, then came straight on to see me.

"I've not slept for 24 hours but I'm still moving and looking forward to it," he says.

Danny's product is called Clik and he bills it as the world's first truly wireless earbuds with live translation. The idea is that you speak in one language and another person hears what you say in their own tongue, either via their own earbuds or via the MyManu smartphone app that Danny has already developed.

Image copyright Mymanu

Smart wireless earbuds and instant translation are ideas which giants like Apple and Google are addressing with vast investments - so it seems ridiculously ambitious for a one-man band to take them on.

He has already had a few setbacks. He'd hoped to have a working model ready for CES, but says delays in manufacturing in China mean the earbuds won't be ready for a few weeks.

Instead, he demonstrates the system on a set of ear headphones, getting me to say Bonjour into an iPad which then comes out of his headphones as Hello.

We struggle with bad connectivity - often an issue when thousands are using the mobile networks at once - but Danny is hoping for a smoother demo in any of 37 languages when his stand is set up at the show.

It has been an extraordinary journey to get this far. He's been working on the idea for four years while holding down a full time job as an engineer at a major aerospace company. He tells me that when he went to China to sign a deal with Foxconn to manufacture his product he could only take three days leave, so spent just one day in Shenzhen - to the amazement of his hosts - then got back on the plane.

Image copyright Mymanu

He has funded Clik from his own savings and a crowdfunding campaign and exhibiting at CES is costing him a tidy sum. So, is it worth it?

"I've had so many emails from companies that wanted to see the product," he says.

"That's the main reason I've come to CES."

He is also hoping to link up with distributors, manufacturers and other possible business partners.

Let's be honest, the odds aren't great on Danny Manu beating the tech giants to launch a product that could transform the way we interact with people who speak a different language. In fact, he might be better to head to the roulette tables and pick a number to put his life savings on.

But this brave young British entrepreneur, with the courage to stake everything on an innovation he believes could change the world, is just what CES should be all about.

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Image copyright Carnival

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