by Ron Amadeo - May 16, 2014 7:11 pm UTC
Google has just snapped up one of the most futuristic apps to come along in some time. Quest Visual, the maker of the incredible Word Lens app, posted on its website that it has been acquired by Google.
Word Lens is (was?) an augmented reality translation app. As you can see in the video, just point your phone camera at a supported foreign language, and Word Lens replaces the foreign text with translated text. The plan is to move the team over to Google Translate where Quest Visual will work on integrating its technology into Google's app.
The two companies are a good match for each other. The biggest downside to Word Lens was the limited language compatibility—it only supported translating Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese into English. Google can definitely help here. Google Translate is one of the most advanced translation systems in the world, with 345 supported languages and more than 10,000 language pairs.
Furthermore, Quest Visual should help to greatly speed up the workflow in the translation app, as currently Google Translate requires you to take a picture, wait for scanning, and then the app translates the text in a separate interface. Word Lens' video-based translation is much faster. The big challenge that the two companies will have to face is that Google Translate is cloud based, and Word Lens translates locally. Can Word Lens' speed be maintained when you add an Internet round trip into the equation?
While the company transitions to Google, they've made the app and all language packs free to download, so if you've never tried Word Lens, now's a great time to check it out—the app is available for iOS, Android, and Google Glass. In a few months though, it wouldn't surprise us to see a revamped version of Google Translate.
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Ron Amadeo / Ron is the Reviews Editor at Ars Technica, where he specializes in Android OS and Google products. He is always on the hunt for a new gadget and loves to rip things apart to see how they work.@RonAmadeo on Twitter ← Older Story Newer Story →