While there are several apps in the App Store that can translate spoken or written text into the language of your choice (we most recently reviewed Trippo VoiceMagix that does speech-to-speech language translation), there’s a new app by developer Quest Visual that will translate text seen through the iPhone’s camera lens on the fly. Word Lens hit the App Store yesterday and has been the topic of much conversation on the internet already.
The Word Lens app itself is free though actual language translation functions require an in-app purchase. For now, only translations between English and Spanish are possible though more languages are coming soon. These in-app purchases currently cost $4.99 each, a temporary reduction of 50% off the regular price which will last until December 31, 2010.
You can get a feel for how the app works without purchasing anything first. The app will demonstrate its capabilities by reversing words or erasing words framed by the iPhone’s camera. You can also enter text using the on-screen keyboard in a manual translation function.
Quest Visual has created a video demonstrating the app’s language translation capabilities:
We briefly tested the app’s Spanish to English translation with our iPhone 4 and found that it does work as shown in the video above, though it can be hard to hold the camera still enough to read translations since the translated text can continually shift around otherwise.
You’ll need an iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, or 4th-generation iPod touch to use Word Lens. An auto-focusing lens and a flash will help the app’s functionality under certain conditions, so an iPhone 4 will be your best bet to use the app to its fullest. Say good-bye to undecipherable menus and signs while traveling abroad!