New iPhone app translates basic Spanish via video on your cell phone: fun to play around with, not so good for Cervantes.
Video recognition software is progressing fast. Google's Goggles app is far from perfect, very far actually. But it hints at worlds of possibility where you search the internet through your camera instead of your keyboard. Right now it's OK on products with logos or text, and not so useful for more educational purposes like which type of leaf your staring at—Project Noah is a noble effort on this front we're keeping our eye on though.
Image recognition apps work by processing a photo you upload and searching through an online database. Word Lens goes beyond that: all the work is done in real-time in video on your cell phone screen, so it's instant, and doesn't require a data connection.
This new language translation app by Quest Visual combines the strides made in text recognition in apps like Goggles with the output of old fashioned online translators like babelfish. The result is a fun real-time visualization of a Spanish language text translated into English the moment you point your camera at it. That opens up a few more uses than other products out there: like scanning a menu at the table.
Check out the demo video above for a pretty impressive demonstration. The creators admit it won't work on handwritten notes nor highly stylized fonts. Confusing backgrounds can also pose a problem, so this is no panacea for language illiteracy. It's just another helpful travel tool, one that points the way in mobile search.
And don't expect any literary translations, it's word for word, not implied meaning—enough to let you scan a store window, not fake familiarity with Mario Vargas Llosa. GeekMom's has a more detailed review if your thinking of clicking "buy this app."