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Translate Words Using Your Phone's Camera
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July 13, 2012

Not every phrase translated in the WordLens app is grammatically correct, with mangled English such as 'Tongue Bolivian with a sauce spicy of anchovies' resulting from literal translation.

Mexico - Most of us have faced that terror of being trapped in a foreign country with little understanding or comprehension of the language. Whether it is a parking sign that makes no sense, or a menu that is all Greek to you, an app for Android and iPhone could be the solution by translating words on-the-fly with the help of your camera lens.

WordLens uses your phone's inbuilt camera to recognize text that is viewed through the lens, and then translating them to English. So far the app works for French, Spanish, and Italian (so actually, if a menu is all Greek to you, it won't be much help.)

WordLens uses text recognition to work out what the word or phrase is, and then automatic translation software translates it into the new language. The translation is then pasted over the original location, practically in real time.

The app has been available on the iPhone with Spanish translation for about 18 months, but is now available on both major smartphone platforms with the new range of languages. A promotional video for the app which shows it instantly translating a number of signs in both languages has already become an internet hit.

One visitor to technology website Mashable wrote: "This is probably the greatest augmented reality I've seen yet. To add layers and distinguish things is amazing, but photoshop translated words is incredible!"

Not every phrase translated in the app is grammatically correct with mangled English such as 'Recent attack of shark' and 'Tongue Bolivian with a sauce spicy of anchovies' resulting from literal translation. But the speed and accuracy of the app's software is still good enough to make sense of simple road signs or restaurant menus.

Otavio Good, one of the developers behind the Word Lens, told TechCrunch, "It finds out what the letters are and then looks it up in the dictionary. Then it draws the words back on the screen in translation."

He says that more languages are going to be introduced, and he is even considering a reader for the blind, which would read out loud the words the app sees on signs.

Word Lens bears some similarities to Google's own application called Google Goggles, which lets users take a picture of a phrase and then search the web using that word.

The app is available for around $5 in both app markets.