Even though the search giant has bought Quest Visual, the makers of the Word Lens instantaneous translation app, last May, the functionality has only been integrated into the Google Translate app now.
You don’t have to visit a foreign country to know how important it is to speak more than just English. Sure, you can impress the locals by showing that you have learned a few of their words, but speaking foreign languages has become much more than just that. As a Czech proverb says, “You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.” Google means to play a major role in our lives by making sure you don’t get lost in translation while traveling or even while working, in case you’re part of a multicultural company. The latest update to the Google Translate app, which should be out today, integrates Word Lens and conversation translation tools, so that you can communicate and understand foreign words more easily.
Google Translate already had a rudimentary way of translating text captured with a mobile device’s camera, but the new update enables us to do that in real time. Before, you had to take a picture and highlight the words (by swiping your finger across them) you didn’t understand, so the new way of doing it is much more convenient, not to mention time-saving.
There are some limitations, at the moment, but those will go away in time, as the Word Lens functionality will be expanded to include more languages. For the time being, the supported languages for this feature are English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Supposing you need to translate some text (think of street signs, not novels) in real time, all you need to do is get the text onscreen, and the translation will be performed automatically.
Given that Microsoft has rolled out Skype Translator just a few days ago, you’d think that these two companies are competing against each other at diminishing language barriers for their users. In fact, they’re addressing the same problem from different angles, and Google plans to also get involved in translating conversations. The latest update of their app even includes the technology that allows people who don’t speak each other’s language to carry out a conversation. We really are living in the future, aren’t we?