That didn’t take long: after being initially reported only a couple days ago, it seems Google has gone ahead and updated its Translate app with some major improvements, apparently available right now.
The app’s listing on Google Play shows that Translate now incorporates “Word Lens,” the name of the app made by Quest Visual that it acquired in May of 2014. Word Lens provides real-time text translation via a device’s camera; if you point Word Lens at a sign in English, it can translate it into a different language right on the display, as you’re looking at it. That’s a big – and impressive – improvement over the already amazing functions of the Translate app, which required a user to highlight text he or she wanted translated after first taking a photo of it. Right now, this particular feature is only available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, but don’t be surprised to see more languages added to that list in short order.
The update also includes “automatic language detection in speech/conversation mode,” which supposedly allow users to speak to each other in foreign tongues and let the Translate app act as an interpreting intermediate. That it can automatically detect what language is being spoken is even more impressive, and as Google continues to improve the software, it should be exciting to see how much better this app gets at providing real=time translations.
The app’s updated features are listed as being available now, but at the moment I seem to be unable to access them with my current version. That should be rectified as updates start to go out in the next few hours and days, however. It’s exciting to know that Microsoft and Google are going head to head to try and offer the best language translation software yet – and their fierce competition means that we win by virtue of their hard work.