Update To Google Translate App Interprets Speech, Translates Photos Of Text Instaneously

signsheysignsThe halls of science fiction are filled with universal language translators — little ear gadgets that make everyone sound the same to everyone else, or floating screens rearranging letters before your eyes into something intelligible. While we haven’t reached a future of perfectly seamless translation yet, Google has update its Translate tool with some new tricks that might get us closer.

In a blog announcement today, Google highlights the two big updates: One that is designed to translate words spoken out loud and another that takes texts in images and interprets it in your chosen language.

The New York Times points out that the speaking tool appears to work better with short, clear sentences free of jargon, using the example of an English speaker talking into the phone’s microphone using Translate to ask for “chicken pizza” in Spanish. After a beat, the device repeats the English phrase in Spanish.

If a cashier were to then answer in Spanish, the app would detect it and translate the words back into English. Which might be an awkward execution in real life and would likely be affected in noisy surroundings, but sounds neat in theory.

After buying the company Word Lens last May, Google is now using the company’s technology in the Translate update: Users point their phones’ cameras at a sign or text and a translation overlaid on the screen pops up, “even if you don’t have an Internet or data connection,” Google says.

However, don’t try going to Kyzyl and translating signs from Tuvan into Farsi — the instant translation currently only works for translation from English to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The update is for both Android and iOS Translate apps on mobile devices, and will be rolling out over the next few days, says Google, in what will mark the first time some features like camera mode and conversation mode are available for iOS users at all.

Hallo, hola, olá to the new, more powerful Google Translate app [Google Translate Blog]