Mobile

Word Lens iPhone app combines instant text translation with augmented reality

Just when you thought you’ve seen everything mobile apps have to offer, along comes an entry like Word Lens that makes you feel like you’re in the future. The app instantly translates Spanish into English (and vice versa) whenever you point your iPhone’s camera on text.

Translation apps aren’t anything new, but what’s amazing about Word Lens is that it translates text in real-time — there’s no need to take a photo and wait for the translation to process. Instead, the app offers an augmented reality (AR) experience by laying its translated text over a video feed from your iPhone’s camera.

This means that you can point your phone at a menu or sign in Spanish, and the app will instantly translate it into English text on your iPhone’s screen. The app also doesn’t require an internet connection to work, so you can use it even when you don’t have reception.

Word Lens is developed by Quest Visual, and the app itself is free. Inside the app, you pay $4.99 for translation dictionaries (only Spanish to English, and English to Spanish are available right now). The app doesn’t come bundled with any dictionaries, so it will effectively cost you $4.99 to start using it. With its in-app purchasing model, Word Lens could easily add support for other translation dictionaries.

Judging from the amount of buzz Word Lens is generating online this morning, I think Quest Visual has a hit on its hands. It’s also notable as a genuinely useful implementation of augmented reality, even more so than Yelp’s Monocle feature. Instead of being flooded with AR data, as many AR apps tend to do, Word Lens simply offers another way to view what’s directly in front of you.

You can view a demonstration of the app below to see just how innovative it is.


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