Google Goggles Gets Text Translation for World Travelers

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-05-06

Google has added text translation to the new Version 1.1 of its Google Goggles application.

Now travelers to other countries can take pictures of street signs, restaurant menus and other text and read them in their native language.

Google launched Goggles to let users take a picture of a location from their Google Android smartphone and trigger a Google search that pulls up information associated with the image.

Goggles creator Hartmut Neven showed off Goggles with Google Translate at Mobile World Congress.

The Goggles-Translate integration connects an Android smartphone's camera to an optical character recognition engine, recognizes the image as text and translates that text into English using Google Translate. However, the app could only translate German text into English at the time.

As of May 6, Goggles can now read English, French, Italian, German and Spanish and translate to many more languages.

Google plans to bring recognition capabilities to other Latin-based languages and eventually read non-Latin languages such as Chinese, Hindi and Arabic, Google engineers Alessandro Bissacco and Avi Flamholz said in a statement.

To use the translation feature in Goggles, users of phones running Android 1.6 or greater must point their phone at a word or phrase and use the region of interest button to draw a box around specific words.

The user will then press the shutter button to take a picture of the word or phrase. If Goggles recognizes the text, it will ask the user if he wants to have it translated. The user may then press the "translate" button to select the source and destination languages.

Goggles recognizes famous monuments and other landmarks, works of art, and products, such as bottles of wine. Goggles Version 1.1 recognizes more barcodes, artwork, products and logos.

The new tool also boasts an improved user interface and the ability to trigger visual searches using pictures in a phone's photo gallery. The boost to artwork recognition comes courtesy of Google's acquisition of visual search provider Plink.

"Computer vision is a hard problem," wrote Bissacco and Flamholz. "While we are excited about Goggles v1.1, we know that there are many images that we cannot yet recognize. The Google Goggles team is working on solving the technical challenges required to make computers see."

Consumers can scan this QR code below or go to the Android Market app on their phone and search for Google Goggles to install the app on their smartphones.

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