An app for Android and iPhone-WordLens-has been created to translate words on-the-fly with the help of camera lens.
So far the app works for French, Spanish and Italian (so actually, if a menu is all Greek to you, it won’t be much help).
WordLens uses text recognition to work out what the word or phrase is, and then automatic translation software translates it into the new language.
The translation is then pasted over the original location, practically in real time.
The app has been available on the iPhone with Spanish translation for about 18 months, but is now available on both major smartphone platforms with the new range of languages.
A promotional video for the app which shows it instantly translating a number of signs in both languages has already become an internet hit.
One visitor to technology website Mashable wrote: ‘This is probably the greatest augmented reality I’ve seen yet. To add layers and distinguish things is amazing. But photoshop translated words in well, that’s incredible.’
Not every phrase translated in the app is grammatically correct with mangled English such as ‘Recent attack of shark’ and ‘Tongue Bolivian with a sauce spicy of anchovies’ resulting from literal translation.
But the speed and accuracy of the app’s software is still good enough to make sense of simple road signs or restaurant menus.
Otavio Good, one of the developers behind the Word Lens, told TechCrunch: ‘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.’
He says that more languages are going to be introduced, and he is even considering a reader for the blind, which would read out loud the words the app sees on signs.
‘The translation isn’t perfect, but it gets the point across’ he said.
WordLens bears some similarities to Google’s own application called Google Goggles, which lets users take a picture of a phrase and then search the web using that word.
The app is available for around £3 in both app markets.