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The instant translation movement is getting a major boost this week, as Google Translate will soon be able to detect which language is being spoken when you tap the microphone on your mobile device. This better enables a real-time conversation to take place between two different languages.

So let’s say you’re asking for directions, you’d ask the question with the microphone positioned near your mouth, then Google’s dulcet robotic tones will re-ask the question in the language you stipulate. Thereafter, the conversation will automatically be translated between the two tongues, without having to do anything other than talk while holding your phone aloft.

While Google Translate has had a conversation mode available on Android for a few years, the fact that the app can now detect who’s talking and translate in real-time is a big step towards seamless, frictionless communication across languages.

But there’s more.

In an instant

Last May, you may remember Google snapped up an app called Word Lens, a service that automatically and instantly translates words using the camera on your phone. Now, the fruits of this acquisition are being realized with the latest update to Google Translate for Android and iOS.

While the Google Translate app already lets you convert words into 36 languages using your phone’s camera, this process will become more or less instant. So you can basically hover your device in front of menus, road signs, and more, and see the translated text overlaid on the screen immediately. And the icing on the cake here is that this works entirely offline.

The updated apps aren’t live yet, but the refresh will be landing today, according to Google’s blog post, with the rollout expected to land with everyone in the next few days.

For launch, the Word Lens instant translation feature will only work from English to/from German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. Though Google says it will be adding more languages in the future.

It’s worth noting here that this is actually the first time camera translations and conversation mode are available on iOS at all, so for iPhone users this update will perhaps be more noteworthy.

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