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Word Lens Translates The World

David Gilbert


It’s not often that we are left speechless by a new piece of technology but Word Lens has done it.

Augmented reality and optical character recognition technology aren’t exactly new, but it is the way and speed with which the iPhone app, Word Lens, uses these technologies that is pretty mind blowing. While we can try and describe the speed with which Word Lens not only translates signs and images but photoshops in the translated phrases, you will only get a real idea of how this works by watching the video below.

Now that you’ve caught your breath after watching the video, we have to tell you about some limitations of this app. Currently it only translates from English to Spanish and vice-versa, is probably not as slick as it appears in the video and, well that’s about it. And we haven’t even told you the most amazing part of this app – it works completely offline saving your data costs as well as your battery.

The app is the result of two-and-a-half years work by QuestVisual, which was founded by Octavio Good and John DeWeese. Looking towards the future, Good told TechCrunch that adding more languages to Word Lens was the natural progression: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we did French next, Italian and since my mom is Brazilian, Portuguese.” Good also explained the app’s process: “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.” While it currently doesn’t translate phrases, this is surely something that could be incorporated easily enough in future iterations of the app.

The app is available from the App Store for £2.99 and you can try it for yourself here.

Source: TechCrunch


December 17, 2010, 9:26 pm

gah! no Android love :( ?


December 17, 2010, 9:40 pm

Wow - unbelievable.

I wonder if they'll do an English to American version...


December 18, 2010, 2:35 am

Better still would be 'Politician to English'.

PS - Have been trying this with mixed results. The words seem to flicker between English and Spanish. Not rock steady like the video.


December 18, 2010, 6:35 am

Can they also do a talktalk customer 'service' to English too?

Hamish Campbell

December 18, 2010, 11:22 am

Why don't they link up to google translate and piggy back off them to get stacks of languages and proper (phrase) translation?

The data costs would be next to nothing.


December 18, 2010, 4:23 pm

@haim: Agree completely - they seem to have cracked the on-the-fly Optical Character Recognition, but then coupled it with an absolutely bozo dictionary - on their website there's a picture showing "French Fries" translated to "Frances Patatas Fritas" which would earn me a right b0llocking from my Spanish teacher.

As they'd only be transmitting their already OCR-ed text instead of an image like Google Goggles does, the data costs would be as you say - next to nothing.


December 19, 2010, 12:40 am

Google buy-out in 3... 2... 1...


December 19, 2010, 4:20 am

Hmmmm I think it's a great idea, but don't be fooled by the video, it is nowhere near as good as that. It will hopefully improve over time but at the minute you will probably be disappointed. You also have to pay £2.99 for English to Spanish and vise versa, which to me is a bit of a con. Does this mean that they are going to want £2.99 from you every time they have an update? I think so.

Pendejo Sin Nombre

December 19, 2010, 2:56 pm

"You also have to pay £2.99 for English to Spanish and vise versa, which to me is a bit of a con."


Not to me. I'm English so see far greater utility in the Spanish to English translation and almost zero personal use in English to Spanish.

Two way translation for £2.99 would be great, but why not £1.99, or 99p, or with a pink pony thrown in to sweeten the deal.

Devs will price their stuff how they will.


December 20, 2010, 3:13 pm

"Not to me. I'm English so see far greater utility in the Spanish to English translation and almost zero personal use in English to Spanish."

Well yes, I do see your point. The only use of translating English to Spanish is to impress your friends, which is all I have used it for so far at work.

This app actually works very well with clearly printed signs, so it would be a very good health & safety tool for any tradesman (or woman) working abroad, in factories for example.


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