Get ready for Google Translate on smartphone’s camera

Today, Google announced that it had acquired Quest Visual, the company who owns the Word Lens app which offers camera-based translation.wordlens1

With the acquisition of Quest Visual, Google seems to utilize this technology for Google translate in the future. The Word Lens app developed by the company translates a text captured through the device camera into a language of your choice which is available on iOS, Android and Google Glass.

What is Word Lens ?

Word Lens uses the built-in cameras on smartphones and similar devices to quickly scan and identify foreign text (such as that found in a sign or a menu), and then translate and display the words in another language on the device’s display. The words are displayed in the original context on the original background, and the translation is performed in real-time without connection to the internet. For example, using the viewfinder of a camera to show a shop sign on a smartphone’s display will result in a real-time image of the shop sign being displayed, but the words shown on the sign will be the translated words instead of the original foreign words.

“By joining Google, we can incorporate Quest Visual’s technology into Google Translate’s broad language coverage and translation capabilities in the future”

This is very handy for reading foreign language street signs or messages on business store fronts. The app is primary for going between English and a second language, and vice versa, as language packs tha are now free, after to the acquisition by the giant are all combinations of English and another language: Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Portuguese. The app also works without any kind of network signal, which is a a good news for those travelling.


Quest Digital’s app is one of the more compelling applications of virtual reality we’ve seen. Turning a foreign reality into a familiar one through the screen of a smartphone is pretty powerful stuff.

The price Google is paying for Quest Digital has not been disclosed. Quest Digital, for its part, says it’ll be giving away its language packs as it transitions to Google.

Quest Visual was founded in 2009, and the four-person team currently operates out of San Francisco. Quest Visual’s first product Word Lens 1.0 was released on December 16, 2010.