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.
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.
Update: Both Google and Word Lens declined to comment on the details of the future of the app or acquisition, other than to confirm an acquisition had occurred.
Makers of the exceptionally popular AR translation app Word Lens, Quest Visual, have been acquired by Google, according to the company's website. Quest's tech will be merged into Google's Translate products.
The statement from the company is as follows:
With Word Lens, we've seen the beginnings of what's possible when we harness the power of mobile devices to "see the world in your language."
By joining Google, we can incorporate Quest Visual's technology into Google Translate's broad language coverage and translation capabilities in the future.
Those of you lucky enough to be visiting Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics might not have opulent luxuries like floors or potable water, but at least getting around town will be a little easier thanks to the Word Lens app. The developers added support for Russian today, allowing users to translate signs, menus, and other text on the fly.
If you've never used Word Lens, then you really should, at least if you're frequently traveling to places that don't speak your native language. The app uses augmented reality to translate text from one language to another, then re-insert it into the live image from your phone's camera.
Word Lens is the kind of app that might not get daily use, but when you do fire it up, it can save your bacon with fast offline translations. This is not just any translation app, though. Word Lens uses your device's camera to overlay the text translation using optical character recognition. Well, this app just got a nice little update to version 2.1 with some new features.
Word Lens now supports Portuguese ⇄ English translations, but it's not included with the app. Word Lens has a slightly confusing payment system. The $4.99 paid version comes with one language pack of your choice.
Word Lens, the sometimes jittery but generally impressive visual language translator, is getting in the Olympic spirit. For a limited time, the language packs—which are acquired via in-app purchases to unlock full translation support—are being offered for $2.99 per pack, which is $2 off the normal price of $4.99. Huzzah!
It comes at a particularly poignant time. As the Olympic games get underway and the world remembers there's more that the nations of earth do together than wage war and make gadgets, Word Lens can be helpful in breaking down the language barrier and acting as a catalyst for that type of international camaraderie.
I first saw Word Lens for iOS on TechCrunch back in 2010 and instantly fell in love with the concept - just point the camera at foreign words, and all of them get translated in front of your very eyes, live. Amazing, isn't it? If you haven't seen this promo video yet, watch it first:
Every month since, I searched the Play Store for Word Lens, hoping its developers brought it to our favorite OS, but found nothing. Eventually, during my trip to Spain, I started using CamDictionary, which did a decent job but was too cumbersome to use and lacked many words in the dictionary.
Have you ever been in a foreign country and tried to find your way around, order from a menu, or read a map in a language that you don’t understand? Language barriers can be incredibly frustrating, but we found a new app designed to go head-to-head with iOS’s Word Lens that can help you next time you’re in that kind of situation.
CamTranslator is a new app from IntSig that is designed to help break the communication barrier between languages using your phone’s camera. It includes a massive collection of over 50 languages that will translate both ways, two different modes of translation, and a few other quaint features.