You might remember Word Lens, an app that we happened to recommend before that did automatic translations of various languages and materials using your camera. Basically, it took the video being shot in real-time, detected any letters or glyphs, and it displayed the translation instead of the original words automatically. Like we mentioned when we took a look at it, it almost works like magic, and it certainly is a good demonstration of the power that we carry around in our pockets. At the time, we also mentioned that the technology and service had impressed Google enough to warrant a purchase, and we wondered at what the future would bring to Word Lens. Well, now we know, as Google has decided to directly integrate Word Lens on their upcoming Google Translate update.
Google Translate has sort of become one of the core technologies in Google, but even more prominent in Android. Innovative products like Google Now were possible due to a legacy of research and mature translation and voice recognition technologies, and it’s fair to say that even now, Google is ahead of the competition. Taking advantage of it in multiple products is something Google has done fairly well, with standalone apps and services all being able to integrate translation and voice recognition in a simple and easy manner at an OS level.
This upcoming update concerns the standalone Google Translate app, and it really does a lot to shake things up a bit. To start with, as we said, Word Lens is going to be integrated into the core Google Translate app, accessible through a simple button that immediately opens the camera and begins translating whatever you are pointing at. In terms of language support, things still seem to be a little barebones in comparison to the original Word Lens supported languages, but more locales will probably start being supported once the rollout begins for everyone.
Besides the Word Lens integration, the new app also brings with it a complete Material Design UI, which is a welcomed change in comparison to the current app, which is starting to look a bit ugly on Lollipop. Alongside the redesign, some new features were also added, including support for more languages that were just added in the latest update and that should be able to take advantage of all the features once the redesign gets distributed to everyone.
Another welcomed change is Conversation Mode, which to be honest is not a new feature, but it’s about to get much better. The current Conversation Mode is a welcomed feature, and it works just fine, but it’s admittedly a bit slow and clunky in its current state. It requires the user to manually change languages every time a new language is being spoken, making a normal conversation almost impossible and serving as a barrier to a true conversational translation. Well, the good news is that the upcoming update will be taking advantage of some of the bilingual support seen in Google Now to automatically recognize which language is being spoken (from the languages set in advance) and offering the translation immediately, both written and spoken. This feature already works like a charm in Google Now, and bilingual support is great – all you have to do is set up in advance which languages you might be using, and when you speak, the app just does the right thing and does the switch for you. You can see a demonstration of this new feature below: