TECH BUZZ: Word Lens Smartphone Translation App

Lost, dazed and confused? Traveling can sometimes feel like you are in the twilight zone, but if you’ve just arrived in Tokyo or Reykjavik, fear not. Quest Visual has been developing a cool translation app called Word Lens, available on iTunes, that allows you to understand those mysterious signs, instructions and restaurant menus by simply pointing your iPhone camera at the confounding words and phrases. The app’s optical character recognition technology recognizes the text, which is then translated and shown on your iPhone’s screen instead of the original text. The text is translated word to word, which makes the app quite basic in its translation capabilities (it doesn’t work on books), but you’ll get the message. Best of all, the translation happens instantly—you don’t have to snap a photo and wait for it to process, or submit the text to some online service. When your camera sees the image in video mode, it automatically runs the optical character recognition (OCR) and then looks up the word in your preferred language. The app also has a manual translation mode so you can look up individual words, particularly helpful in situations where you know the app is not giving you the right answer. To watch a demonstration, click here.

The app itself is free, but you must pay for the individual language packs, which cost $4.99. Currently, only English to Spanish translation and vice versa is available, but there are more languages in the works including functionality for Android, WinPhone7, Palm and Blackberry users. We’re a long way from Kansas now considering where we were on this technology frontier ten years ago.

To install the app, click here.

Latest posts by Kate Ayrton

1 Comment

  1. Anderson on August 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Smart OCR is one of the latest optical character recognition software programs. It’s significantly better than most other programs. Try it here:

Leave a Comment


Enter your email address to subscribe to our newsletter and get the best travel advice straight to your inbox!

Join 15 other subscribers