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.
Wondering what that sign says, but you don't speak the lingo? You might want to figure it out – signs convey important information. Maybe it says "keep off the grass," but it could also say "high risk of electric shock." Word Lens can help with that by doing live translation of text using optical character recognition and the camera. It's neat, and the newest version adds support for tablets.
WordLens is one of those borderline-magical apps that make me feel like I'm living in a scifi novel. The initial release was a little buggy, and the UI made it clear the app was a direct port from iOS. The 2.0 update just dropped, though, and it takes care of a lot of those issues.
If you've never heard of WordLens, here's the deal: hold your phone up to a sign or some other thing with words on it, and WordLens uses your camera to translate those words to another language of your choosing in real time.
Google Translate, the frequently-overlooked wonder app of the 3rd millennium, got some new features today. Chief among them is an amazing new image-based translation mechanism. The app now supports use of your camera to take a picture of the text you would like to translate. Once that's done, just "brush" over the word or phrase you need to read and Translate will do what it says on the tin: render that text in your preferred language.
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.