In January, Google integrated the “Word Lens” feature into the Google Translate mobile app with support for 7 languages. “Word Lens” translates large printed text when you place the camera in front of it, including street signs and consumer goods labels. “Word Lens” is activated by opening the Google Translate app, tapping on the camera icon and holding your device in front of the text. The text transforms live on your screen into the language that you want to translate without requiring an Internet connection. Now the “Word Lens” feature in the Google Translate app supports 20 more languages, bringing it to a total of 27.
The twenty-seven languages that “Word Lens” in Google Translate supports now are: English, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Hindi (one-way translation), Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish,Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai (one-way translation), Turkish and Ukrainian. You can also take pictures of the text and have it translated across a total of 37 languages. Some of the “Word Lens” languages may require you to download a translation package file, which has a size of about 2-3 megabytes. Below is a video demo of how “Word Lens” works:
Google also improved the conversation mode in the Google Translate app update. This will be especially beneficial to users in emerging markets that rely on slower mobile networks. The conversation mode of the app is a speech translation feature that works across 32 languages. For example, you can speak Spanish to the app and have it display what you said in English. When I was visiting Europe in the spring, I was able to communicate with some of the taxi drivers there using the conversation mode built into Google Translate.
How does Google Translate make so many languages available offline? Otavio Good, a software engineer at Google, said in a blog post that his team had to develop a very small neural net and put limits on how it was taught. “We want to be able to recognize a letter with a small amount of rotation, but not too much. If we overdo the rotation, the neural network will use too much of its information density on unimportant things,” said Good. “So we put effort into making tools that would give us a fast iteration time and good visualizations. Inside of a few minutes, we can change the algorithms for generating training data, generate it, retrain, and visualize.”
As of January 2015, Google Translate was used by over 500 million people per month and more than 1 billion translations were made per day. Google crowdsources improvements for the Translate app through its Translate Community, which validates and corrects translations. The newly added languages on “Word Lens” will be fully rolled out on the Google Translate Android and iOS app over the next few day