One of the reasons why Google Translate has emerged as the mostly widely used online language translation tool is the constant refinements and updates that Google has made to it since the app first became available in 2006.
A couple of updates announced this week serve as the latest examples.
One of them is a feature that instantly translates text written in Arabic to either English or German. To translate Arabic text with a mobile phone, a user now only has to fire up the app, click on the device camera and point it at the data that needs to be translated. That's an improvement on the app's existing ability to translate bilingual conversations and inputted text in English or German to Arabic.
Users who want to try out the new capability will be prompted to download an approximately 2MB-size language pack. "You'll see the text transform from one language to another in real-time on your screen," said Barak Turovsky, product lead for Google Translate, in a blog announcing the new capabilities.
Importantly, users do not need an Internet connection or use up cell phone data to use the app, he said. Instant visual translation is currently available for more than 270 languages via Google Translate.
Google this week also announced a new feature in Translate that allows owners of iPads that support the new Split View mode to get instant visual translations of text they may be viewing or typing at any time.
Split View is a multitasking feature in iOS 9 that allows iPad owners to use two applications simultaneously and view them side-by-side on the device screen. The new feature in Google Translate will let users type in or read text or initiate a bilingual conversation with someone else and get an instant translation in Split View mode.
The new capabilities add to the growing list of language translation options that Google has rolled out for Google Translate with some regularity recently.
Earlier this month, for instance, Google announced a new in-app translation capability for users of devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the latest version of the company's mobile operating system. The update basically allows users to get instant translations of text in some 90 languages right from within applications such as WhatsApp, LinkedIn and TripAdvisor. Instead of having to toggle between different apps to get a translation, users can now simply highlight and select the text from within the app to get it.
In August, Google announced that it was making Translate available on all Android Wear watches. The capability allows users to speak into their watch and have it translated into one of 44 languages. Simply by flipping their wrist, Android smartwatch users can send the translation to others, or see in their own language what someone else might have said to them in a different language.
Google claims that some 500 million people currently use Google Translate and that the app is used to translate a staggering 100 billion words each day. Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world currently contribute cross-language translations for the app. Contributors can either choose to see a phrase or snippet of text in a language of their choice and translate it into their own language or correct existing translations in the system.