The mobile version of Google Translate is about to get two impressive new features the ability to use your phone's camera to translate written text, and a hands-off mode that makes holding conversations in a foreign language go somewhat more smoothly.
The first feature, which Google is calling Word Lens, ought to be a boon to travelers looking for subway stations, finding restaurants, and trying to avoid walking into the wrong gender's bathroom. It instantaneously translates signage, Google said, even without an Internet connection.
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"Often the hardest part of traveling is navigating the local language," wrote Google Translate product lead Barak Turovsky in a blog post. "If you've ever asked for pain' in Paris and gotten funny looks, confused embarazada' with embarrassed' in Mexico, or stumbled over pronunciation pretty much anywhere, you know the feeling."
Asking for directions, as well, could get a lot easier with the new conversation mode in Google Translate. As of right now, the process is a bit clumsy select the languages, hit the button, ask the question, play the translation, hit the button again, get the response, and wait for the reverse translation, and so on.
Now, however, all that's needed is to select the two languages, hit the button twice, and converse the app will simply translate whatever it hears into the other language, and vice versa.
The only bad news is that the new features are apparently not available right away we didn't see them during a check on both the iOS and Android versions on Wednesday morning. But the update should be on its way out the door for both platforms over the next few days.