Word Lens instant translation -- via camera!

If Word Lens is to be believed, we now live in the future where you simply point your iPhone camera at something and it translates it for you replacing the Spanish text, for example, with English right before your gobsmacked eyes.

It currently only supports 2 demo modes (backwards and erase) and two language packs (English to Spanish and Spanish to English) available as in-app purchases, currently on 50% off sale for $4.99. They admit it's not perfect; it can't handle handwriting or stylized fonts, and gives more gist than precise translation, but again -- camera based translation, future, gobsmacked. Even if it's only a tech demo, even if it only works for comedic effect,

[Free with in-app purchases - iTunes link]

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Apple updates Time Capsule, AirPort routers to fix AirPlay bugs

Next up →

12 Days of iTunes Christmas starts early with Kylie Minogue

Reader comments

Word Lens instant translation -- via camera!


This iPhone app has game-changing potential. This technology in general has world-changing potential.

It doesn't do it as instantly as this, nor does it replace the actual text instantly as you view it in the camera.

As @robCal says... It's legit. Hard to believe until you actually use it and see it work. It's definitely not perfect and things move around a bit if you don't keep a steady hand, but it definitely does work! I was seriously impressed.

Why would this be a game changer when google goggles does it for free like asgjeff said. And it does it pretty well too. Their image recognition is also pretty sweet. It can recognize a lot of items and go a google search for you.

It's a "game changer" because everything that appears on Google Android-based phones seems to be free. While that's great for the consumer, the developers are left out in the cold. That's why they tend to flock to the iPhone App Store because they know their product will sell and provide them more revenue to produce more apps.
This free, "open" approach Google has begun will fall flat eventually because not all developers and companies are as rich as Google and they can't afford to offer their hard work for "free". Until Google can convince developers to make their apps Android as well as iOS based, then the App Store will always remain the King of the App World and nothing truly game changing or innovative will ever take the masses by storm on the Android Marketplace. This will be made certain of once Verizon debuts their version of the iPhone in 2011 and everyone makes a mass exodus from Android handsets. Because the iPhone, no matter how derided, criticized and hated, is still the de facto phone which all others are either compared to or based upon. It's just starting to get good. Wait, watch and see! ;)

Color me gobsmacked. Those bringing up GG need to understand this is a live, augmented reality app where Spanish words are instantly replaced with English words, or vice versa. You don't take a picture. You don't need an internet connection. You see a sign or menu in Spanish, look at it with this app, and the sign or menu is now in English. Universal translator, here we come.

On the plus side, it doesn't require an internet connection so is a huge leap ahead of Google Goggles - basically at another level all together.
On the minus side, it cannot handle something as routine as a menu. It seems intended for signage. And of course it isn't cheap if we're to believe its literature saying the launch price is 50% off. At full price it will have a small take-up.

Well, the app is not going to work very well because it translate word for word. Tow Away is translated as Remolque Lejos which back to english word for word means "Trailer Far away". Would you understand that as Tow Away. In many countries where spanish is spoken the real phrase for that is "Se usará Grua". Just a thought...

I downloaded the free demo where it reverses the word. It it is pretty amazing. It truly is not perfect but I'd expect some of its flaws to go away over time. Having traveled overseas pretty extensively this past year for work this tool would have come in pretty handy if it were in other languages. I would have also willingly paid $4.99 for each language. It would not have helped with work (it has a very difficult time with long text strings and paragraphs) but it would have made getting around a lot easier.

This thing just floors me. I'm walking around the house looking for things to show backwards. I don't personally need Spanish-English but if they have Chinese (or other Asian-language) to English when I travel to China (or other Asian country), then I would definitely make a purchase. Sure the translation may be crude, but better than having no clue whatsoever! I can't believe we can achieve these types of things with a phone - a phone!

Its not really a phone. Its more of a dumb downed laptop in your pocket without an accessible file system. And oh.. it happens to have a wireless radio in it so that you can make voice calls over the wireless network. But those voice calls... those are the exception. Mostly, its a CPU in your pocket.

I agree w/ others in saying it isn't a game changer but is freaking cool! I haven't tested it but live translation w/ no pics and no internet requirement is awesome. They'll have to work on the reliability but it def' seems like a fun toy for now.

Oh, and people want to bitch and moan aout how stupid it will be when Apple inevitably puts a camera on the iPad next year, and very few consider the possibilities of this kind of stuff. Imagine once this technology is stronger and it can translate entire pages on the fly, translate and provide document sized viewing and editing...

I bought the app two days ago and showed it to my son today. He said cool but came back about two hours later and ask to use my phone. It seems a product he sold on Second Life to a person in Mexico had an issue and he had to respond to a Spanish text. He used the app and resolved the issue. Cool beans huh? BTW, I'm 60 so I can say cool beans.