Google Goggles is a visual search app that Google released in December which allows you to take a picture of an object with your camera and it will attempt to recognize it.
It was a cool app to show people, but its real world utility was at least somewhat questionable. That changed at Mobile World Congress in February when Google showed off a prototype of translation running on Goggles which took German text and translated it into English (video below).
Today they have released a much improved version of that prototype to the public with Google Goggles 1.1. If you already have Goggles just head into the Market to update, otherwise the QR code is available in this post (Sorry 1.5 users this is strictly for 1.6 and up).
The app can now “read” English, French, Italian, German and Spanish and will translate those into a wide variety of languages. They are working to add additional Latin-based languages first with the goal of adding non-Latin languages at some point down the road.
I’ll let Google’s own words guide you on its functioning.
- Point your phone at a word or phrase. Use the region of interest button to draw a box around specific words
- Press the shutter button
- If Goggles recognizes the text, it will give you the option to translate
- Press the translate button to select the source and destination languages.
I played with it for a couple minutes and it definitely works well on small patches of text, but trying to grab a whole paragraph didn’t yield great results for me. My only other complaint from my limited use is that the select/crop tool which allows you to pinpoint the text you are interested in should be a little easier to shape and move as you wish. My first impression is that this would be fantastic for travelers confused by signage or menus and the like and of course as with most Google apps this is free which makes the decision to download much easier.
Having bumbled my way around France a couple years ago trying to use my Spanish to somehow will the words to make sense I think this is an awesome addition to Google Goggles and transforms it from an interesting novelty to a must download in my mind.