New iPhone App Translates Images in Real-Time

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If you’ve ever been to another country and struggled with reading signs and menus, a new iPhone app called Word Lens might be just what the doctor ordered. Word Lens is an augmented reality app that can actually translate text seen through your iPhone’s camera. Just turn on the app and hold up the phone so that the text you want to translate appears on your iPhone camera’s viewfinder, and Word Lens will pick out the words, translate them for you and display the translation right on your iPhone’s screen.

The app itself is free, but all the free version does is let you play with or erase text on images seen through your iPhone camera.  The actual English-to-Spanish dictionary that gives the app its translation capabilities is $4.99.

Even better, the app doesn’t have to be connected to the Internet to do this.  So, it’ll work even in areas where you have no signal and you don’t have to worry that using the app while you travel will result in obscenely high cell phone bills.  $4.99 is definitely a reasonable price for something that will help you out in a foreign country without racking up data charges.

At the moment, though, translation is only offered from English to Spanish. Other languages will be available soon, but aren’t ready yet. Also, the translations aren’t perfect, but that’s to be expected. Still, once they get more languages added, this app could easily become a traveler’s best friend.  Ovatio Good, one of the developers behind the app, is counting on it.  “The tourism market is really very large,” he explained to CNN. “I want to sell this to all the tourists in the world.”

Fast Company even compared Word Lens to the Babelfish from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” saying:

“Were he still with us, the creator of the famed fictional “babel fish” universal translator, Douglas Adams, would be having kittens right about now, and not only because he was an avowed Apple fan–this app is like the textual equivalent of that clever little fish.”