Google Gives Translate The Gift Of Sight
August 10, 2012

Google Translate: Now You Can Point, Tap, Brush and Listen Your Way To Understanding

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Google Translate has always been a very cool service. After all, there aren´t many better demos when you want to show off just how “in the future” we are to someone a bit naive about tech or time travelers from the 1800s.

Now, Google has updated their Translate app for Android to make the service even better. Never ones to rest on their laurels, Google has now given the Android version of Translate the gift of sight, integrating some of Google Goggles´ optical character recognition technology, empowering the app to translate written text as well as spoken or typed text. With the new app, users will finally be able to snap pictures of the menu at their local Vietnamese restaurant to get a full translation of what´s included in Bun bo Hue.

Google is no doubt proud of this new app, and rightfully so. In their blog, Google writes:

“With our latest update to our Google Translate app for Android, we´re aiming to get one step closer to the Babel fish. By integrating Google Goggles´ optical character recognition (OCR) technology, we´ve made it possible for you to use the camera of your Android smartphone to input text without typing. This makes Google Translate for Android one of our most intelligent and machine learning-intensive apps. Speech recognition, handwriting recognition, OCR, and machine translation all rely on powerful statistical models built on billions of samples of data.”

The directions for using this app are straightforward. As Google puts it: Point, Tap, Brush and Listen.

Simply open up the app on your Android device (running Android 2.3 or higher, please) and point your camera at whatever piece of text you want translated. After tapping the camera button to freeze the image, simply brush the piece of text you need translated with your finger. Brushing this text selects it and singles it out for Google´s OCR technology. The Google gears get to work translating the text and presto– your text is translated to which language you are most comfortable speaking.

This functionality was added into the Translate app on Thursday, but it´s worth mentioning that the aforementioned Google Goggles app has been able to perform the same task for 2 years now, using the same OCR technology.

The new, updated version of the Google Translate app is available now in the Google Play app store for free. Google Translate is now, however, available for iOS devices.

Apple users who want a similar functionality from their devices, however, can try out an app which has been in the store since 2010 called World Lens.

World Lens works by translating pictured text instantly into your selected language. Another demo worthy app, World Lens translates text live without asking the users to take a snapshot first. The words begin to shift and move and are suddenly displayed just as they were originally, only in a different language. Very cool indeed.

Google Translate recently announced that 200 million people actively use the translating service each month, translating 64 different languages from all over the world.