Hoping to expand the range and functionality of Google Translate, Google recently purchased an app called Word Lens. Originally created by Quest Visual, a privately run American company, Word Lens is an app that can translate several different languages into English (or vice versa) using the built-in camera of most smartphones.
The Word Lens app allows users to point their cellphone camera (taking a picture or video is optional) at text written in a foreign language. The app will then translate the text into the language of your choice. For now, translatable languages include English, Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish, French, and Russian.
Now that Google owns the app, we can expect its integration with Google Translate, which in time should allow for the inclusion of several other languages for immediate translation. With Google’s resources, a future that includes the ability to translate just about every spoken language is not unforeseeable. At the moment, Word Lens is only available on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
Word Lens, however, remains a work in progress. The app often has difficulty translating particular types of stylized text or handwriting, and it can make mistakes. Despite these occasional errors, Word Lens usually gets the point across.
With Google now on board, most of these issues should be ironed out.
Here is a short video demonstrating this amazing app, which is currently free for a limited time only: