Google’s recent purchase of the instant translation app Word Lens has gone big. For a limited time, smartphone users can download Word Lens from the app store for free. The language packs to enable instant translation are also free. And the app is so useful that CBS Moneywatch writer Dave Johnson says in his article to go download it right now—even before finishing reading. I did, and spent the next fifteen minutes wandering the house pointing my camera at random text and watching it morph into Spanish. Pretty cool.
Word Lens uses the camera on the phone to recognize text and provide an instant translation. While the technology has been around for a few years, it somehow avoided receiving a lot of attention and use. However, Johnson calls it an essential app for international travelers. The app is surprisingly small, with each language pack taking up very little storage space on the phone, and unlike most travel-related apps, it doesn’t use any data to function—meaning it can be useful even when roaming internationally (seriously, there’s nothing worse than trying to pull up a map or directions when you don’t have a data connection. Like you’re somehow supposed to never get lost in data-free areas?)
Word Lens is currently available between English and Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and German. It works most effectively on clear, sans serif fonts—no fancy text or smudged writing. Some users complain that the app is very sensitive to movement, and that the translation changes if the camera moves too much, this can often be overcome by using the pause button in the app to “freeze” the text to get a good translation. From the developers: “It’s not perfect, but you can get the general meaning!” And Quest Visual, the creator company of Word Lens, expects that their merge with Google will increase their ability to provide ways to “see the world in your language.”
This post also appears on http://samedaytranslations.com/blog/