Google bought Word Lens back in May of last year and we all assumed that the app's awesome functionality would get rolled into Google Translate at some point. Today is that day, as Google has announced on the Search blog that Translate has been updated to include Word Lens and all that it can do. The Translate update also brings faster real-time conversation translations. This is a pretty sweet update.
Word Lens uses your device's camera to see what you are seeing and translate other languages with the language you speak. Right now it translates French, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, and Spanish into English. It will also translate English into those six languages. It doesn't work for translating Spanish to Russian, for instance, but that is coming in the future. All you have to do, is open the Translate app, access your device's camera, and point the camera at writing that is in one of the available languages. This could be a menu in a restaurant, a book you want to read, or a sign on the street. The app will magically translate for you, right on your screen. This all happens in real time and without the need to even snap a photo. It's really amazing.
The real-time conversation translations now happen almost instantly. Just tap the microphone button and the app will recognize the language you are speaking as well as the language of the other person with whom you are conversing. Translations appear onscreen almost as fast you are speaking, as long as you have a solid data connection. Before this update, you had to tap the mic button each time you changed speakers, slowly the conversation down considerably. Now conversations can happen fluidly, with each person reading the translation on-screen as they speak.
The updated Google Translate app is rolling out in waves to users starting today. I checked and haven't received the update yet, but it will be on its way soon. If you travel or deal with other languages and speakers on a regular basis, this is a must-have app for you.