Word Lens is Like a Great Google Audition

By  |  Friday, December 17, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I’m no business guru, but from the moment Word Lens splashed onto the iPhone App Store, developer Quest Visual seemed like an obvious candidate for a Google acquisition.

Quest Visual’s iPhone app translates text in real time when held in front of the phone’s camera. And Word Lens doesn’t just give you a plain translation, it literally swaps old text for new on your screen, as if the thing you’re looking at was never in a foreign language at all.

As several publications have noted, the app is imperfect. It only supports English and Spanish for now — the business model lies in the sale of additional language packs — and the translation doesn’t always work right (sometimes with disastrous results). I haven’t tried Word Lens, because $5 for what seems like a tech demo is too rich for my blood.

Thing is, Google is moving along the same track with Google Goggles. Part of the Google Mobile feature for iPhone and Android lets you snap a photo of text and get a translation from the web.

Where Word Lens falters, Google excels. By drawing on a huge database that allows users to suggest better translations, Google Translate is always improving, so the chances of getting a bad translation will decrease with time. Google Goggles also supports more languages, with the goal of eventually supporting non-Latin languages as well. Word Lens, conversely, will always be limited by its offline dictionary, which plays a big role in providing fast translations on the fly.

So maybe this means Google and Quest Visual are actually incompatible.  I certainly hope not, because they could be wonderful together.


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Anglea Fontenot Says:

    What is this word lens everyone is tweetinf about? Of to discover…

  2. TKO Says:

    Um, neither you, nor Technologizer are able to stump up $5.00 to tell us what it's like outside of a pre-prepared demo? Heck, rummage around the couch and you might be able to find the loose change needed. Used to be hard to find an article that went the extra mile. ..now it's not even the extra foot.

  3. JaredNewman Says:

    While I can't speak for Harry, for me it's a case-by-case basis. I bought Infinity Blade last week because it seemed like an important step for iOS gaming. For that matter, part of my motivation for buying an iPad was that it'd be useful to cover for work. I bought the first issue of Project (Virgin's iPad magazine) a couple of weeks ago though I didn't get around to writing about it. Though I don't love Call of Duty, I bought Black Ops because it seemed necessary to tell whether the hype was warranted. And when companies send me products for review, I usually pay the return shipping. There are plenty of cases where I pay out of pocket.

    In this particular case, I didn't think the hands-on time would significantly benefit the article since I was just firing off an idea about the tech rather than writing a proper review.