It could be the perfect tool for bewildered tourists lost in a foreign city.
A remarkable new iPhone app has been developed that instantly translates words viewed through the phone’s camera from Spanish into English, and back again.
WordLens uses the iPhone’s inbuilt camera to recognise text that is viewed through the lens. At the moment it only works with Spanish but further languages are expected to follow.
Scroll down to watch the app in action.
WordLens uses text recognition to work out what the word or phrase is, and then automatic translation software translates it into the new language.
The translation is then pasted over the original location, almost in real time.
This means that any English word that is viewed through the iPhone lens is quickly replaces with Spanish, and vice versa.
A promotional video for the app which shows it instantly translating a number of signs in both languages has already become an internet hit.
One visitor to technology website Mashable wrote: ‘This is probably the greatest augmented reality I’ve seen yet. To add layers and distinguish things is amazing. But photoshop translated words in well, that’s incredible.’
Not every phrase translated in the app is grammatically correct with mangled English such as ‘Recent attack of shark’ and ‘Tongue Bolivian with a sauce spicy of anchovies’ resulting from literal translation.
But the speed and accuracy of the app’s software is still good enough to make sense of simple road signs or restaurant menus.
Otavio Good, one of the developers behind the Word Lens, told TechCrunch: ‘It tries to find out what the letters are and then looks in the dictionary. Then it draws the words back on the screen in translation.’
He says that more languages are going to be introduced, and he is even considering a reader for the blind, which would read out loud the words the app sees on signs.
He said: ‘The translation isn’t perfect, but it gets the point across.’
Word Lens bears some similarities to Google’s own application called Google Goggles, which lets users take a picture of a phrase and then search the web using that word.
A free version of Word Lens instantly reverses any word it can see, and the Spanish to English and English to Spanish translation services are £2.99 each from iTunes App Store.