Image-Translating iPhone App May Just Blow Your Mind

JD Rucker December 17 Apple

Translating technology has come a long way since Babblefish. A new iPhone App called Word Lens combines augmented reality, real-time translation and character-recognition software that will have you heading to that Mexican restaurant you always wanted to try but couldn’t read the menu.

The app looks for characters through the iPhone camera and translates them in real time, replacing the foreign words with their English counterparts (and visa-versa).

For over 2 years, Quest Visual founders Otavio Good and John DeWeese have been working on the technology that will aid travelers abroad. The initial offering for $4.99 offers English-Spanish conversion with plans to roll out other languages soon.

“It tries to find out what the letters are and then looks in the dictionary,” said Good. “Then it draws the words back on the screen in translation.”

Future plans include French, Italian, and even an app for the blind. Even if you aren’t traveling out of the country any time soon, it may be a good app to get simply for the novelty value. Here it is in action:

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Digg User technight put it to a little independent test:

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Written by JD Rucker

+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of both Judeo Christian Church and Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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  • This new iphone application is going to really help international communication, but hopefully it will also spark other ideas for the same concept. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into a situation of not being able to read signs/menus. My whole office was amazed by this article. Now, they just need to develop an Andriod app.
    Erin @

  • Claudio Ochoa

    Sounds like a great application but the translations leave a lot to be desired; it looks like they are literal translations which from a Spanish speaker’s point of view don’t make a lot sense. You can communicate but you’re paying $4.99 to sounds like an electronic translator.

  • zbeast

    get the program to do Japanese and I’ll be interested.
    Spanish, is too easy to read even if you don’t really know the language.

    • Anon

      Okay, not everyone made an A in Spanish…or even a C. Don’t be a jerk; this is awesome.

      • Heck, some people did not have Spanish at all. We’re not all from the states 😉

  • Monica

    The second Polish support is offered for this app is the second I switch my phone service provider.

  • juandedios

    Some warnings signs require precise translations. For instance the sign in the image says on top: “Tow away” which means your car will be tow by authority, but it was translated as “You tow far away” instead of the more usual “se usará grúa” in spanish…In the same wave, how they will translate “Slow down”? “lento y abajo”? (sluggish and under)…?

    • You are forgetting about context. If you were driving in a car, saw a sign that sign said “Slow and Under” you would would contextualize that and deduce an appropriate reaction of slowing down. Especially if there similar types of signs from your country of origin.

      Secondly, the idea that someone would use this while driving is ridiculous. (Although, it stands to reason that if someone were accompanying them, then they could use the app in their stead.)