Google buys visual translation app Word Lens

iPhone 5s ad (Powerful, Word Lens app)

Google has just purchased Quest Visual for an undisclosed price. The startup is behind the innovative Word Lens application which Apple recently highlighted in its ‘Powerful’ Phone 5s ad. The deal was confirmed in the startup’s blog post.

The team has decided to make both the Word Lens app and the additional language packs free to download for a limited time, “while we transition to Google”. If you haven’t tried out Word Lens yet, you should do so right now, while it’s still available.

The remarkable software taps Quest Visual’s technology to detect text in a live video feed coming from your iPhone’s camera. It then replaces foreign language words and sentences with an appropriate translation – matching fonts and graphics, in real time!

Quest Visual writes on its homepage:

Quest Visual is joining Google!

With Word Lens, we’ve seen the beginnings of what’s possible when we harness the power of mobile devices to “see the world in your language.”

By joining Google, we can incorporate Quest Visual’s technology into Google Translate’s broad language coverage and translation capabilities in the future.

As a thank you to everybody who supported us on our journey, we’ve made both the app and the language packs free to download for a limited time while we transition to Google.

We’re looking forward to continuing our work at Google – stay tuned!

One word (actually, two): Google Glass.

World Lens 2.2.3 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)World Lens 2.2.3 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)

I also think Google will integrate Quest Visual technology into Android and plug it into its Google Translate service for some interesting possibilities. And I’m not even mentioning a possible Google Now integration.

World Lens 2.2.3 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 003)World Lens 2.2.3 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 004)

Smart move on Google’s part here, indeed.

Word Lens handles all processing directly on the device, in real-time, so no network connection is needed whatsoever! The technology isn’t without its pitfalls. For instance, the app won’t recognize handwriting or stylized fonts as it works best when used on clearly printed text like signs, menus and what not.

Watch Word Lens in action in Apple’s ‘Powerful’ promo below.

It’s got interesting Reverse Words and Erase Words modes, the former spelling all the words backwards and the latter acting as a digital white-out.

Curiously enough, Apple at post time still featured Word Lens on a special webpage dedicated to showcasing all the apps featured in the iPhone 5s ‘Powerful’ ad.

Download Word Lens free in the App Store.

The universal iPhone and iPad binary requires iOS 6.0 or later.

Once installed, fire up Word Lens and install additional language packs for free, via In-App Purchases. The app is also available for Android and Google Glass.