Word Lens, a new app from Quest Visual, is taking things to a whole new level. It analyzes text within an image it is viewing and instantly translates English to Spanish, or vice versa. The app itself is free, but each translation option costs $4.99 – meaning the Spanish to English and English to Spanish options are sold separately (you pay once, though, not each time you want to use it). And sorry – it’s only available to iOS 4.0 or later, and there’s no Android version as of yet.
While the app works extremely quickly – remarkably quickly – some are saying the translations can be a little too literal, and you cannot save any translated images to the phone to access later. But other than that, the app works like magic. It took developers Otavio Good and John DeWeese over two years of development to perfect Word Lens’ use of optical character recognition, a technology we’re certainly going to be seeing more of. Tech Crunch describes the process, saying “It tries to find out what the letters are and then looks in the dictionary. Then it draws the words back on the screen in translation.”
The site also claims that the developers are working on adding major European languages, and they specifically mention French, Italian, Brazilian, and Portuguese. Good also admits that “The translation isn’t perfect, but it get the point across.” So foreign language majors out there won’t be able to use Word Lens for deciphering novels, but international travelers will appreciate the ease with which they can read street signs and menus.
Ars Technica is reporting that at the end of the year, Word Lens will increase to $10 per translation package. In that case, we sincerely hope they add more languages – enough people speak decent Spanish and English, and $10 for a short and very literal translation might not be worth it.
If you haven’t downloaded and tried the app out for yourself, check out this preview.