Google has announced that it will shortly be rolling out a new version of its Google Translate Android app, with two significant enhancements.

First, it is replacing the existing camera-based text translation with the far slicker Word Lens system. Google acquired Word Lens back in May of last year with this upgrade in mind. If you haven’t ever tried it, this was the app that brought home to me the truth of the Arthur C Clarke saying that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The near-instant augmented reality translation of signs and menus from any one of French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish–without needing an Internet connection–still makes me boggle every time I use it …


Second, Google has improved the simultaneous interpretation feature–where two people who speak different languages can hold a conversation with the benefit of instant, spoken translations. It now automatically recognizes which language is being spoken, so tap the mic once to start the service and you can then just pause when you want what you’ve said to be translated.

Look out for the update if you already have the app installed, or check on the Play store in a few days for the new version–it will be a free download.

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