Back in 2010 when the translation app Word Lens premiered, we were pretty blown away by the technology. Developed by Quest Visual, the app is capable of translating foreign languages into English and vice versa in real time, detecting words based on visual text seen on your camera. No typing, or speaking, no fussing around trying to find accent marks for particular word spellings. Just hover your phone to a written sign and receive an immediate translation, drawn right on the sign as if it was naturally there.
At last, the app has finally expanded to Android users just in time for the traveling season. Much like its iOS predecessor, Word Lens uses your Android’s video camera combined with optical character recognition technology before accessing the app’s pre-installed dictionary. This means you can receive instant translations even without an Internet connection.
When the app first launched in iOS, the only available language was Spanish. Along with the Android premiere, Word Lens now offers Italian/English and French/English translations — each sold separately at $5 per language pack download. Android app download will cost $5 which comes included with one complimentary language pack, though you can also purchase more in-app. If you want to demo the app first, a free download is also available for you to test out.
It’s interesting to note, however, that although the app seemingly works like a charm, some foreign phrases simply don’t not translate correctly without context. Since the app uses character recognition, some translations might just be too literal (Engrish, anybody?). Hey, as long as you somewhat get the idea, right? Users should also be aware that novelty typefaces might not be recognized by your device’s camera so it might still be a good idea to pack on another translation app, such as Google Translate.
While the technology is certainly impressive, we’re looking forward to the days when Quest Visual can help translate even the most complicated of languages. While Spanish, Italian, and French are by no means easy to decipher if you have no foreign language knowledge, exotic languages that use non-Latin characters like Chinese or Arabic would be a feat to translate instantaneously.
If you’ve never seen Word Lens in action, check out the introductory video below from the app’s iOS launch.