Point and Translate: Google Translate App Update Introduces Word Lens Capability


Google is rolling out a new version of the Google Translate app on iOS and Android, which features Word Lens translation using the device's camera. The update promises to perform the process of translation at a much quicker pace. This can come in handy when one is on the move.

The updated Google Translate app allows iOS and Android users to instantly interpret cross-language conversations and translate a foreign restaurant's menu and even signs on the street. Users would simply have to point their device at a sign or anything that needs to be translated and hit the camera button. Like magic, the foreign words would appear translated into the user's preferred language.

The new Google Translate also includes a conversation mode that incorporates both voice recognition and the Internet cloud in order to translate both sides of a chat between speakers of two different languages.

The app has 38 language options, which the users can choose to form a number of pairs. After a language pair is created, the smartphones listen to the conversation and convert the words during the chat. The translated text is displayed in writing on the screen and the user can listen to it using an automated voice system. The transcripts of the chats can also be saved.

While translating signs and menus through the device's camera can be accessed offline, translating the conversation between two live speakers would need Internet connection either through Wi-Fi or one that is provided by a carrier. This is because the computing power for translating a dialogue would come from Google servers.

Initially, the Word Lens instant translation works only with translating English to or from Spanish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, French and German. Google promises to add more languages in the future.

"We're letting you instantly translate text using your camera, so it's way easier to navigate street signs in the Italian countryside or decide what to order off a Barcelona menu," said the team behind Google Translate in a blog post.

The Word Lens technology, which Google acquired in 2014, uses the video mode in a device's camera when scanning scenes and identifying foreign writing before displaying it in English.

"If you are looking at a restaurant menu, it's nice to see which thing on the menu you are looking at so you can point at it when you order," said former video game developer Otavio Good, who is also the original author of Word Lens.

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