When Microsoft Translator was released a few months ago, I went through an extensive comparison between it and Google Translate and came out impressed by Microsoft's efforts, but not completely swayed. At the time, Translator had a major advantage in its Android Wear support (a gap that Google has since closed) but lacked many other features like offline functionality, camera view, and most importantly the live conversation mode. Well, Translator has now jumped that last hurdle and added natural conversation support in its app.
The mode works for a few select languages already: Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, with more promised to be added in the future.
Are you tired of having to copy text, flip to the Translate app, paste the text, copy the translated text, then paste it back into whatever you're working on? It appears Google has you covered, as long as you're running Android 6.0. Taking advantage of Marshmallow's new contextual selection functionality, it appears that the latest version of the Google Translate app has added the ability to translate words on the fly from text fields that follow the new Text Selection behavior.
It goes without saying that this is incredibly useful. Besides translate, the mind wanders at the possibility of what else could be done with the contextual selection features in Marshmallow.
We've known that it's coming for about a month, and today Google has made good on those expectations. According to a post on the official Android blog, Android Wear will be getting a software update "in the coming weeks" that will enable interactive watch faces. These are essentially tiny apps/widgets built into a watch face design that let you do more than simply tell the time or check the weather. A sufficiently advanced face app could replace several individual Wear apps, or do away with the need to check for updates from a specific app.
Here are some of the examples Google gives in its post.
Microsoft's Translator isn't the first service to attempt to confront Google in the translation game, but it may be one of the first to pose a real challenge to Google Translate. Out of the gate, the app has an Android Wear component, a sorely missed feature in its competitor, and even though Translator does seem quite simplistic and limited, it has most of the basic features covered to warrant a more thorough comparison against Translate.
A different approach
While many of Microsoft's recent apps have adopted Material Design in their interface, Translator is more subtle about it. Both the welcome and the translation screens' blurry background and iconography are modern but not exactly Material.
Welcome to the future. No, really, it's the future, right here and right now. And not just because we've got mobile processors that can calculate Pi to the ten trillionth digit, or because our video games are starting to look more like movies than games. Nope, what makes me feel like I'm living in The Future(TM) more than anything else is how all that pie-in-the-sky Moore's Law tech gets applied to solving very human problems, like figuring out where the exit is in the Jakarta airport.
Case in point: Google's Translate app is applying the Word Lens visual translate tool, which lets you point your phone's camera to a sign or piece of paper and see the text in your native language, to 20 new languages.
Google acquired WordLens a while back, eventually integrating its visual text translation technology into the Translate app. It only supported seven languages at the time, but today's v4.0 update adds a lot more, and Google is showing off the visual translation feature with a nifty Google Translate vs. “La Bamba” video.
We had an exclusive preview of upcoming changes to the Google Translate app last month, and Google just announced an update that matches exactly with our information. The new version of Translate is rolling out on Android and iOS with built-in Word Lens translation via the camera and a smarter conversation mode that can listen to both languages at once.
Before Chromebooks and Android, Google blew peoples' minds with its web services alone. Translate was one of them. Here was a website that took in whatever you typed and spat out something that at least kind of resembled the same words in a different language. Even now, translations aren't spot on, but it usually gets close enough to convey the message.
Google is still expanding the service, and now the company is ready to introduce support for ten additional languages. Chichewa (Malawi and surrounding areas), Malagasy (Madagascar), and Sesotho (Lesotho and South Africa) represent Africa. In Central Asia, there is Kazakh (Kazakhstan), Tajik (Tajikistan), and Uzbek (Uzbekistan).
A few months ago Google purchased the developer of the impressive WordLens app, which translates text and signs from another language into your own simply by pointing your camera at it. The text appears in your language through the lens, as if you had super-powered Translate-O-Vision. As with Waze and Google Maps, it looks like Google's own Translate app will soon see the benefit of that acquisition. Check out the screenshots below, taken from an upcoming version of Google Translate.
You can see WordLens' trademark feature at work in Google Translate above, where it's live-translating an English menu into Spanish without any kind of delay or recording.
Today's update to Google Translate probably won't affect most of our American readers, but if you live in or frequently travel to India, you're going to get a lot of use out of it. The update to version 3.0.6 adds spoken translation support for Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu, all widely spoken in different parts of the Indian subcontinent and other locations in Southeast Asia.
Many in the western hemisphere think that Hindi is the official language of India, and it is (along with English). But India is enormous, both in terms of geography and population, and it has one of the most diverse linguistic topographies of any country on Earth.