The term “augmented reality” has been bandied about since the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report was released in 2002. This sci-fi technology, which blends what a user actually sees with computer-graphical imagery and helpful information, took a step forward last year with Google’s Goggles and Sky apps for Android. Now, Quest Visual is pushing the AR limits with Word Lens, an iPhone app that translates foreign languages into English in real time.
This particular application (the app itself is free, but language packs cost $9.99 each) could help users to quickly translate signs on trips to Barcelona or even at the local taqueria. You use Word Lens by simply opening the app and pointing your phone’s camera lens at the text you’d like to translate. The software will substitute foreign words with their corresponding English phrases.
Why the Competition Should Care
The mobile translation space is definitely heating up. There are a number of voice interpreter apps on the market, including iSpeak and Jibbigo, as well as dedicated devices (although those products are much more expensive than Word Lens).
Word Lens generated a lot of buzz when the app launched in December 2010. When asked about the direction and future plans for Word Lens, founder Otavio Good said that building an Android app is top priority. Good also said that he envisions Word Lens foremost as a travel tool for tourists—not as a full-blown translation software suite. Essentially, he’d like to do his bit to reduce the language barrier worldwide. In addition to the usual software tweaks to shake out bugs, support for other European languages is on the docket.