Translate the world with Google Goggles

Chris Caceres · February 18, 2010 · Short URL:

Google shows off a new feature which adds 'text translation' to its Google Goggles

The days of carrying around a pocket translator are coming to an end with the rise of the smartphone.  Google showed off a new feature this week which will be integrated into its Goggles application that translates text in which you point your camera at.  

You'll understand how it functions best by taking a look at this video Google posted.  But basically, say you're at a restaurant and have no idea what is written on the menu in some other language, you pull out your trusty smartphone, point at the text, take a snapshot, upload to Google's servers and then get a translation back.  

The translation product is still in its very early stages.  Google said it only works for German-to-English translations and isn't ready for prime-time.  "Eventually, we're hoping to build a version of Google Goggles that can translate between all of the 52 languages currently supported by Google Translate, said Hartmut Neven, a scientist at Google working on the project.

For those who want to understand what exactly is going on in the background of this technology, Google said the prototype is connecting the phone's camera to an optical character recognition engine, which sees the image as text, then translates the text into English.

Now, as fantastic of an innovation as this seems, is it really all that effective?  Of course, being in a foreign country and pointing your phone around to get translations is an amazing idea.  

But realistically, Google isn't integrating the translation engine into the actual phone itself, instead it's having the user upload data to its servers in foreign countries.  Imagine how quickly the costs of data roaming could add up if a user is trying to translate the world around them?  Also, you can probably imagine how time could add up taking exact photos of text and waiting for and upload/download to get a translation back.  This should be a product fully integrated into the application that does not require data transfers - instead, make it work instantly, on the fly as you point at text.  Come on Google, step it up another notch. 

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