About 2 years ago, an app called Word Lens launched for the iPhone. It seemed like one of the more technically impressive apps out there and a great demo for what smartphones can do for us these days. Word Lens worked, in a way, similarly to Google Goggles, which you could use to take pictures of text in another language, and then Google’s servers would use OCR to see what’s in the image, and then use the Google Translate engine to translate, in your language of choice.
But there are also some major differences between Word Lens and Google Goggles. Word Lens had the huge advantage that it could translate text that was seen through your phone’s camera on the fly, in real time, almost immediately, instead of taking 20-30 seconds to be processed through Google’s servers. The second major advantage was that you didn’t need an Internet connection, like Google Goggles did, to translate the text.
Everything was being done offline. Since usually you need translation apps like these when you travel in another country, it’s much easier to have them work offline, instead of having to use data roaming, or having to buy a SIM card from that country with data option. That’s if you can even get data there.
This is why I was hoping Word Lens would arrive sooner rather than later on Android, and although it took 2 years for them to finally make it available for Android, it’s finally here. I should note that there are also some disadvantages compared to Google Goggles. It only supports supports 3 language pairs by default (English – French, English – Spanish, and now also English – Italian). If you want other language packs, you will have to buy them, but they are on sale for $4.99 until July 22nd.
Feel free to install Word Lens from the Play Store, but be warned that some users say it doesn’t install in their country for whatever reason (doesn’t recognize the phone), and also some say that it doesn’t work as well as advertised, so the Android version might still be a couple of revisions away from working perfectly.