Word Lens Translates Words Inside of Images. Yes Really.

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Ever been confused at a restaurant in a foreign country and wish you could just scan your menu with your iPhone and get an instant translation? Well as of today you are one step closer thanks to Word Lens from QuestVisual.

The iPhone app, which hit iTunes last night, is the culmination of 2 1/2 years of work from founders Otavio Good and John DeWeese. The paid app, which currently offers only English to Spanish and Spanish to English translation for $4.99, uses Optical Character Recognition technology to execute something which might as well be magic. This is what the future, literally, looks like.

Founder Good explains the app’s process simply, “It tries to find out what the letters are and then looks in the dictionary. Then it draws the words back on the screen in translation.” Right now the app is mostly word for word translation, useful if you’re looking to get the gist of something like a dish on a menu or what a road sign says.

At the moment the only existing services even remotely like this are Pleco, a Chinese learning app and a feature on Google Goggles where you can snap a stillshot and send that in for translation. Word Lens is currently self-funded.

Good says that the obvious steps for Word Lens’ future is to get more languages in. He’s planning on incorporating major European languages and is also thinking about other potential uses including a reader for the blind, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we did French next, Italian and since my mom is Brazilian, Portuguese.”

Says Good, modestly, “The translation isn’t perfect, but it gets the point across.” You can try it out for yourself here.

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