Google Translate now provides live translation of Japanese text

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Google Translate could already translate Japanese text into English from a captured photo, but now the app skips a step, letting you point your camera at signs, menus and other things that might contain printed Japanese words, and get a translation to English on the fly (and vice versa). The feature is available via Word Lens in both the iOS and the Android versions of the Google Translate app.

This seems like a small thing, but as someone who spent a decent stretch of time in Japan without anything beyond the most basic grasp of the language, I can attest that it would be very useful in practice. A friend of mine there once bought bleach because he thought it was laundry detergent. He spent the rest of his time in the country wearing clothes covered in big white spots .

Word Lens is an app that was created by Quest Visual, which Google acquired in 2014 to build the features directly into Translate itself. It launched on Translate in January 2015, when it supported only English-to-Spanish and the reverse. Google has recently switched to AI-powered translation in its Translate app, which has offered big benefits in terms of speed and accuracy, so we could start to see a lot more language pairs make their way to the Word Lens translation as a result.