When You Don’t Have An Interpreter with You – Google Launches Image Text Translation Function


This week, Google launched a powerful and interesting new translation feature for smartphones – the ability to use the camera to detect that something is text, read it and translate it! Of course, it’s not working at the level of a human interpreter and translator who can understand and distinguish subtleties and differences in languages and loses the ‘art’ of what it really means to be a translator, but it does serve a useful purpose for when you just need to have some idea what that road sign or menu says. The instant translation functionality is currently available for translation from English to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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How Does it Work?

It used something called ‘Word Lens’, a technology that allows your camera to recognise words. After this, the words are processed by Google’s translate feature that has been available for some time already.

Also added to their translate app this week was the ability to recognise languages through audio and interpret them.

“Starting today, simply tap the mic to start speaking in a selected language, then tap the mic again, and the Google Translate app will automatically recognize which of the two languages are being spoken, letting you have a more fluid conversation. For the rest of the conversation, you won’t need to tap the mic again—it’ll be ready as you need it. Asking for directions to the Rive Gauche, ordering bacalhau in Lisbon, or chatting with your grandmother in her native Spanish just got a lot faster.”

Faster until it misunderstands something and you return to gestures and broken versions of both languages to laugh and explain your way through the misinterpretation! Perfect for chats with friends and family, not entirely suitable for professional situations. In those instances and in your marketing materials make sure to leave it to the professional translators. The days of mistakes going viral are no time to risk automating important corporate translation services.

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