Learning another language can be difficult, especially while living in areas in which only one language is spoken for several miles around. So to help fill in the rough spots, we often turn to language guidebooks and the like to help identify just what a particular item is, or the means to ask for a specific point of information. Automated translators can also prove valuable, and that's where a new set of features for Google (News - Alert) Translate step in, offering a new means to not only figure out what terms are being used, but how to respond to these terms.
The first such tool is the Word Lens, which augments Google Translate's ability to use the camera to get a picture of a word and get translations. The Word Lens allows this process to become instant, essentially allowing a user to photograph words—a menu, street signs, or the like—and get text translated instantly, without the need for an intervening data connection. It currently works from English and both to and from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Russian, and more languages are expected to arrive as Google continues augmenting the system.
The second is an augmentation to the Translate app in general, geared toward smoother flow of conversation. Users are now able to tap the mic to speak in a certain language, then when the second language starts in, tap the mic a second time. Now, Translate can tell which two languages are being involved, and can translate speech from one language into another, and vice versa. The updates will arrive on both Android (News - Alert) and iOS systems over the next several days, according to reports, and this also represents the first time that many of Google Translate's more powerful features are on hand for iOS users, according to reports, making it a better overall proposition.
With real time translation services on the rise, especially mirroring the rise of real time communications systems as a whole, Google may well have been feeling a bit of pressure from a market in which converting one language to another automatically is becoming a bit of old hat, so to speak. But in a case like this, where one service is as good as another as long as it can quickly and accurately convert one language to another, offering new tools allows Google to keep that competitive advantage. Indeed, not so long ago, the idea of incorporating such a system into Google Glass was presented, and it's an idea that still holds value. With Google able to add features like these to a smartphone, can it be far behind where such tools are added to the smart glasses as well? Will we be able to walk into a room where everything is in French, press a button near our temples, and get an immediate English translation? Will we even necessarily need a smartphone to do it? After all, smartglasses have gained a lot of ground at work, but not so much with regular consumers. A tool like this, meanwhile, may offer up the necessary value required to spark some interest in the consumer segment.
There are plenty of possibilities associated with this market, and plenty of use for such tools as well. After all, whether it's trying to arrange a business deal or just looking for the nearest museum, language barriers exist worldwide. Breaching these barriers can mean great gain, and Google appears well on its way to having the best such breaching tools in the field.