Word Lens Review: See the world in your language

Get excited! You may have just discovered a way to tone down your pre-travel nerves...
Printscreen image from Word Lens video/Quest Visual

Touching down in a different country where you don’t understand or speak the language can be downright intimidating. How will you order food from a restaurant menu that makes no sense?!

Despite well-intentioned plans of practicing our foreign language skills, there never seems to be enough hours in each day. So, what to do? Enter the Word Lens app that literally puts the power of translation at your fingertips. Using the modern wonders of text recognition software, this app instantly transcribes foreign words into a language you actually understand.

Word Lens Introduction

The Word Lens app comes with simple instructions: (1) hover the camera of your electronic device over the words you want to translate, (2) tap the green button and (3) voilà, the translation appears before your eyes within seconds.

See the Word Lens app in action. Enjoy this short 1 minute 10 second video demonstration.

A “thumbs up” travel app

This magical travel app seemed too good to be true (even after watching the video), so I decided to test it out myself.

Downloading Word Lens to my iPhone was easy and free. Google bought the app from its parent company, Quest Visual, earlier this year (May 2014) and made each language pack free for its users to download. But as stated on the app’s website, this zero dollar price tag is a limited time offer – exactly how long remains unknown.

Language packs are always being added to Word Lens. It’s now possible to translate English into six other languages (and visa-versa).  In my testing of the application I used the Spanish-to-English translation and left the Russian, Portuguese, Italian, French and German options for another day. While I found that the direct translation of the app was not always perfect, the fact that it translated and replaced the text on objects right on the spot was a novelty in and of itself.

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Oh, the translation possibilities. Photos by Britt Fracolli

The best translation results are achieved for printed text rather than handwritten notes. But don’t expect Word Lens to help you read entire books in a different language. Think individual words and small phrases on restaurant menus and signage, etc.

What makes Word Lens particularly convenient for travel is that it doesn’t need to be connected to Wi-Fi to operate.  There’s not always going to be a network connection when you need on-the-spot translation on your trip. And let’s be honest, accruing expensive data roaming fees is out of the question.  With the app, you can “see the world in your language” while venturing through the world’s most remote regions – like the Amazon jungle – so long as your electronic device has battery life.

Word Lens is the only one of its kind in the app market right now. Like many 1.0 models, there’s definitely room for improvement with this first version of this app. Sometimes, for example, individual words irregularly switch between English and Spanish which makes the translation via the app a pinch frustrating. Nevertheless, the potential of its real-time translation capabilities is undeniable and with the Google squad now in its midst the app is surely on the fast-track to superstardom.

If you’re on the fence about downloading Word Lens, ask yourself this simple question: why not? It’s free and won’t take up any luggage space. The worst case scenario is that you don’t use it.

At a glance: Word Lens travel app

What is it? It provides real-time language translation from English to Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, French and German (and visa versa)
Price? Free. Gratis. Gratuit. Kostenlos. (You get the idea…)
Network connection needed? Nope
Advice: Translates typed text better than written words.
App website: http://questvisual.com/

Before jetting off to some faraway land where you don’t speak the language, be sure to test out the app yourself. It’s available to download at the App Store, Glass, and Google Play.

Do you give Word Lens app a thumbs up? Is there something you’d like to add? Share YOUR thoughts in the comment section below. :)

Thanks for reading the first feature of our new Tech Tuesdays series! In today’s era of connectivity, many of us feel naked without our phones and the idea of leaving it at home when we go on vacation is out of the question. Every other Tuesday, yours truly (that’s me, Britt), will take a look at a neat smartphone app or cool electronic device that’s travel-related. By doing so, if I’m able to share something new with you or make your travel experience more enjoyable, then my mission is accomplished. Stay tuned for the next Tech Tuesday.