Google Translate can now translate text in images through your phone's camera

Google Translate can now translate text in images through your phone's camera

Summary: Google's Android translation app can now recognise and translate text just by looking at it - a feature that has actually been around in the company's Goggles app for over two years

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Google has pushed out a new version of its Translate app for Android, adding optical character recognition to the linguistic toolkit.

Google Translate
Google Translate can now recognise and translate text through your phone's camera. Image credit: Google

The feature means users can, for example, use their Android phone's camera to take a picture of a menu in a foreign language, then have the app translate the text into their own tongue.

The user just has to train the camera on the text, then brush the text they want translated with their finger. They also have to be using Android 2.3 or higher.

Although the feature is new to Google Translate — it was added on Thursday — it is now more than two years since Google added the same functionality to its Goggles app, which is entirely based around image recognition.

Within Translate, though, optical character recognition (OCR) fits in nicely as part of a more focused toolkit.

Still in alpha after 18 months, the most ambitious tool in that set is probably speech-to-speech translation, which theoretically allows two people to speak to each other in different languages with the app acting as a translator for both parties.

Topics: Android, Apps, Google, Mobility, Smartphones

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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9 comments
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  • Just to point out...

    The three or four dozen of us using Windows Phone 7 have had this feature quite a while already. (The speech or image is funneled through Bing servers instead of Google's of course.)

    In addition, the Windows Phone translate app lets you download language modules for offline use, which is handy for avoiding data roaming charges when traveling. internationally
    ToddAllcock
    • yes and two years in use at Google...

      .... "Summary: Google's Android translation app can now recognise and translate text just by looking at it - a feature that has actually been around in the company's Goggles app for over two years"

      Not sure how much use the average person would get out of this. If you were just traveling or occasionally working abroad it would be good, full time outside of your native country, I think I would want to learn the language. Maybe a good use to when using temporary seasonal workers. However we have just seen what a dumb ass you can be with literal translation in the same language in different places.
      ktower
  • Just to point out...

    The three or four dozen of us using Windows Phone 7 have had this feature quite a while already. (The speech or image is funneled through Bing servers instead of Google's of course.)

    In addition, the Windows Phone translate app lets you download language modules for offline use, which is handy for avoiding data roaming charges when traveling. internationally
    ToddAllcock
  • Spambots unite and rejoice!

    That whole Captcha thing was cool while it lasted... Sounds like this just royally eff's that up.
    BGunnells
  • The subject line in the email reads

    Google Translate now reads images...

    I thought 'neat, now when I do a search for Boobs I'll get pictures of Boobs and not pictures of idiots' ....

    But alas, it's a app for translating text in images.

    I guess I'll just have to keep seeing pictures of idiots while looking at Boobs.

    ;)
    Rob Berman
  • Boobs vs Boobs

    If you enable g+ t0 help you search photos (images) then your search history will suggest your most likely word use.
    jnffarrell
  • It's getting scary around here

    If it can do that, it can do facial recognition. And then we'll find out it's doing the facial recognition without telling you... just writing down who your friends are, in case Google needs to know that... to send you an ad, or to tell the FBI where Sammy Schmockmeier is.

    I'm not picking on Google. Microsoft just built TV's "the machine" for New York City. And I'm sure IBM has one under construction somewhere. It's just that no matter where you go... there's a camera.
    Robert Hahn
  • Google OCr

    Does google provides an ocr just like above for iphone ?
    emySA341
  • So, uh, can we do this on the web?

    On a desktop? Without a phone?
    Amaroq