Today, in our small space to recall applications that fascinated us in the past, we remember one whose functionality still seems like magic today: Word Lens, the real-time text translator that surprised us in 2012.
Word Lens was and is an application with which you could use your mobile camera to translate texts visually, which expertly overlapped the original text imitating the typeface and font. It made us dream of a world with fewer language barriers, but six years later, what happened to it?
What was special about it?
Today we are used to image identification functions via Google Lens, Bixby Vision and the like, but when the first version was released in 2010, the panorama of what could and could not be done with the mobile was very different. As in so many other occasions, Word Lens came to Android much later than iOS, in 2012.
In 2012 the most recent version of Android was Jelly bean and the most recent flagship from Samsung was the Galaxy SIII with 1GB of RAM, Snapdragon 400 and 8 megapixel camera. The power was not exactly on Android phones.
For all this, an application capable of read text on an image, translate it, and project it back in a format that mimics the original image, it was truly revolutionary for the time. The translation was far from perfect, yes, but the result shown in context was very attractive.
In short, Word Lens was of limited utility, but undoubtedly cool. If with the limited mobiles of the time it was capable of doing this, what could we expect in the future after the technique was refined?
What has become of Word Lens?
Google bought Word Lens in 2014 with the intention of integrate your technology into Google Translate. Sure enough, the Google translator included the translation from the camera a year later with support for 20 languages and for free. Word Lens was traditionally paid (you had to pay for each language pack) but since Google bought it, the packages in the official application became free.
The original app is still available on Google Play, although it has not been updated since 2014. Nothing prevents you from installing it today, although it seems that it just doesn’t work as intended on a current mobile.
Word Lens Translator3
Considering that the version on Google Play is four years old, it is somewhat miraculous that it works to some degree, but it does … more or less. You can choose any language pack, which are still free, and point to a text to translate it, although in my case the result is a black screen where translations are overlaid full of glitches. Word Lens has not aged well.
The original app is in limbo, but its technology lives on Google Translate. Here it has been incarnated for three years in the google translate camera icon. Language support is still limited, but has increased over this time. The operation and precision, however, has hardly changed.
Since Word Lens was integrated into Google Translate, technology has hardly changed. The translation is still quite regular, unstable, somewhat slow and too literal. While six years ago Word Lens “was fine, by then”, today when other similar technologies surround us such as ARCore or Google Lens, the implementation in the Google translator knows little.
Does it still make sense today?
The promise of Word Lens remains as valid today as it was in 2010. Who doesn’t want a magic technology to translate texts in context and in real time? In all this time, several similar applications have been born, but for now none seems to greatly improve what we already had five years ago.
The Word Lens presentation video still interesting today, and although it would be expected that at this point we would have a better, more fluid translation with a better integration in the context through that artificial intelligence that they try to sell us so much, the reality is not like that.
Word Lens as such has been absorbed by the Google translator so we cannot expect news or improvements in this regard, but an application that would do the same, but better, it would make all the sense in the world in 2018.
In Engadget Android | Apps you freaked out with in your day: Viber