The latest Google Translate update introduced Japanese support for the Word Lens functionality of Google's mobile tool, meaning users are now able to translate Japanese to English in real time by simply pointing their camera at any Japanese text. Masakazu Seno, one of Google's software engineers, said that this new feature will surely help tourists explore Japan, adding how all they need to do to take advantage of it is download the latest version of the Google Translate app from the Google Play Store.
Google's mobile tool was already capable of translating images of Japanese text using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, but the latest app update also brings this functionality to Word Lens, an augmented reality (AR) feature of Google Translate. Unlike the older solution which requires you to capture an image, Word Lens works in real time and is an extremely convenient tool to have once you find yourself in a foreign country and are trying to navigate using street signs. Nonetheless, the AR functionality of Google Translate works best when tasked with simple translations, Google says. Anyone looking to translate something that's more complex than a restaurant menu should still probably opt to use the app's Camera Mode for more accurate translations. Finally, both the Camera Mode and Word Lens are capable of operating offline provided that the Google Translate app already downloaded all of the necessary data packages.
Word Lens initially made an appearance in Google Translate back in early 2015, shortly after the Mountain View-based tech giant acquired Quest Visual, a small startup that created a standalone AR translator of the same name. Ever since then, Google has been hard at work improving both this feature and Google Translate as a whole. Today, the company's Android app can translate 103 languages, more than half of which are also supported offline. Apart from the Japanese support for Word Lens, the new Google Translate update also fixes a bug which occasionally prevented people from sharing their translations through Facebook's Messenger. The update started rolling out earlier this week and should already be available for download from the Google Play Store.