Back in 2010, a company called Quest Visual debuted an app called Word Lens. It hardly seemed possible, but the app translated a number of different languages in real time using just the smartphone’s camera. Currently, users can translate between English and Portuguese, German, Italian, French, Russian, and Spanish.
It’s easy to see why Google would want to own it — its stated mission is to make all the world’s information searchable in any language — and Google Translate generally does this quite well, at least for web pages.
With Word Lens, iPhone users can translate the world. Apple even featured the app in its recent “Powerful” television ad for the iPhone 5s, and it’s obvious why. Even better, it doesn’t require a connection to the internet, which is another benefit for business travelers.
Being a great translation app doesn’t come without some struggles. Word Lens has trouble with particularly stylized text or handwriting, and the translations will make occasional mistakes. However, most of the time, it will at least get the point across.
The app is currently free to download from the App Store, and is also available on the Google Play Store on the Android market. The translations are available via an in-app purchase, though they are also currently free.