Skift Take

This has huge potential to impact how we travel, and since the language barrier is a worry for many travelers it would be great to see Google partner with destinations to help soothe those qualms.

Deciphering the meaning of a street sign in Berlin or communicating with a waiter in Bangkok got much simpler this week with Google Translate’s new app update for Android and iOS users.

Word Lens instant translation, introduced in this update to both Android and iOS, lets users point their phone cameras at foreign text and within seconds translate to and from seven languages through an overlay on the screen without any internet connection required.

Users don’t have to be online to do it either.

The languages this update recognizes are English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian, and Google says it’s working on adding more languages.

Previously, Android users were able to take a photo of foreign text and upload the photo to the app for translation to and from 36 languages. The introduction of Word Lens to the app follows Google’s acquisition of the application from Quest Visual last year.

Word Lens isn’t everything Google is up to.

Automatic language detection in conversation mode uses a phone’s microphone to listen to a conversation and provide voice and text translation. It also lets a user speak in his or her native language and translates that speech through voice and text into the language of the person the user is communicating with. The update translates the conversation in real time, only requiring one tap of the translate button to listen and translate the entire conversation. This feature has been available for Android users since 2013, but the new update makes it faster for Android and introduces it to iOS for the first time.

Evan Barbour, a spokesperson for Google, said the company currently has no plans in the works to collaborate with tourism boards or study abroad organizations to get those groups promoting the app’s services.

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Tags: google, google travel

Photo credit: The Word Lens instant translation update to Google Translate's app. Google

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