updated 01:30 am EST, Fri December 17, 2010
Point-and-translate works instantly
Quest Visual has brought its first application to the App Store, an instant video translation of printed material called Word Lens that does real-time visual translation by utilizing the video camera found in the two current iPhones and the fourth-generation iPod Touch. Users simply hold up the camera to any printed sign, menu or clearly-printed material and it is both translated and "photoshopped" back into the natural background instantly.
The app itself is free, but in-purchase language packs sell for $10 (they are on sale for $5 through the end of December). Currently all that is available is English-to-Spanish or Spanish-to-English, but even without language packs the power of the app can be demostrated in its two included modes, "Reverse Words" and "Erase Words."
The program does not do a perfect translation but is more than sufficient to understand the meaning, and has trouble with heavily stylized fonts (and doesn't do handwriting at all), but also does not require an internet connection or network of any sort to do its translation-and-replacement magic, making it ideal for foreign travel.
The program can also be used to translate typed-in words and phrases as well. Reviewers at the App Store have thus far given it a perfect five-star rating. Word Lens requires iOS 4 or better.