Instant translations of street signs with your cell phone camera

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What if you could point your cell phone video camera at a foreign-language sign and see an instant translation of the words on it? Word Lens allows just that. The iPhone/iPod Touch-only app, released mid-December, uses your camera to perform Spanish-to-English translations, without making a single keystroke on your phone.

Want to know what "las salchichas a la parrilla" means on a restaurant sign in front of you? Just point your camera and Word Lens pulls up the relevant English translation ("grilled sausages") immediately and displays it within the image, replacing the Spanish words. So you don't have to go to another screen or wait for more than a half-second.

See an astonishing YouTube video of this cool tool:

Another huge plus for travelers: Word Lens works with a built-in dictionary. It does not need to connect to the Internet, and your phone is not hit with data charges while roaming in a foreign country.

Being offline makes it different to Google Goggles, a straightforward translation app for Android and iPhone devices that provides more accurate translations because it pulls results from the Web.

Downsides: Word Lens translations are far from perfect so far, and the tool doesn't recognize handwriting yet. Translations for other languages are in the works, and the focus on Apple products is just the beginning.

Word Lens is "free" to download but you have to pay about $5 for each language you want to translated. The tool is currently on a half-price sale through Dec. 31 and is available via iTunes. Find more info about the tool at questvisual.com.

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