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Word Lens

word lens app, word lens
Word Lens was an augmented reality translation application from Quest Visual[1] Word Lens used the built-in cameras on smartphones and similar devices to quickly scan and identify foreign text such as that found in a sign or a menu, and then translate and display the words in another language on the device's display The words were displayed in the original context on the original background, and the translation was performed in real-time without connection to the internetFor example, using the viewfinder of a camera to show a shop sign on a smartphone's display would result in a real-time image of the shop sign being displayed, but the words shown on the sign would be the translated words instead of the original foreign words

Until early 2015, the application was available for the Apple's iPhone, iPod, and iPad,[2] as well as for a selection of Android smartphones[3] The application was free on Apple's iTunes, but an in-app purchase was necessary to enable translation capabilities[2] On Google Play, there were both the free demo and the full translation-enabled versions of the application[3] At Google's unveiling of its Glass Development Kit in November 2013, translation capabilities of Word Lens were also demonstrated on Google Glass[4][5][6][7] According to the January 2014 New York Times article, Word Lens was free for Google Glass[8]

Google, Inc acquired Quest Visual on May 16, 2014 in order to incorporate Word Lens into its Google Translate service[9][10][11] As a result, all Word Lens language packs were available free of charge until January 2015[10][11][12][12][13][14] The details of the acquisition have not been released[9][10][11][12] Word Lens feature was incorporated into the Google Translate app and released on January 14, 2015[15][16][17][18]


  • 1 Application
  • 2 Supported devices
  • 3 Supported languages
  • 4 Accuracy
  • 5 Developers
  • 6 Competition
  • 7 Reviews
  • 8 History of updates
  • 9 See also
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links


Screenshot from the official Word Lens demo by Quest Visual, Inc

Word Lens is an augmented reality application that recognizes printed words using its optical character recognition capabilities and instantly translates these words into the desired language[2][3] This application does not require connection to the internet In its default mode, Word Lens performs real-time translation, but can be paused to display a single frame or to look up alternative translations of each specific word in that frame It is also possible to use the built-in dictionary to manually type in words that need to be translated

Word Lens 10 was released on December 16, 2010,[19] and received significant amount of attention soon after,[20][21][22][23][24][25][26] including Wired,[27] The Economist,[28] CNN,[29][30] The New York Times,[31][32] Forbes,[33] The Wall Street Journal,[34] MIT Technology Review,[35] and ~25 million views on YouTube in the first 6 days[33] Since the application held a No 1 position on the lists of Top Free Apps and Top Grossing Apps on iTunes for the few days following its release, it is currently described as Top In App Purchases[2] In 2014, Word Lens was featured in the Apple ad for iPhone 5S Powerful[10][11] This application is currently available as Word Lens 223[2][3]

Supported devices

Word Lens requires iPhone 3GS+, iPod Touch with a video camera, iPad 2+, or any iPad Mini [2][25] In 2012, Word Lens was released for a selection of Android smartphones[3] In 2013, Word Lens became available for Google Glass,[5][7] even though Google Glass itself is not yet freely available[8]

Supported languages

At the release, only English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English were supported, but other language dictionaries were planned,[30] with European languages expected first[22] English-to-French and French-to-English were released on December 14, 2011[36][37] In 2012, English-to-Italian and Italian-to-English were added, followed byEnglish-to-German / German-to-English and English-to-Portuguese / Portuguese-to-English in 2013, and English-to-Russian / Russian-to-English in 2014

Since the acquisition by Google in May 2014, all previously released language packs can be downloaded for free[9][10][11][12][13] It was also speculated that through incorporation into Google Translate, Word Lens would be extended to "broad language coverage and translation capabilities in the future"[38]


According to its description, Word Lens is best used on clearly printed text and was not designed to translate handwritten or stylized fonts This application was created to help tourists understand signs and menus, and it is not 100% accurate The developer Otavio Good commented:"I will be the first to say that it’s not perfect, but perfect was not the goal" However, testers who took the app to other countries said it had been useful[33] Further, even though the application was not designed to read books, the Wall Street Journal journalist Ben Rooney managed to understand a page from Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban[34]


Example of a French-to-English translation by Word Lens

Word Lens has been developed by Otavio Good, a former video game developer and the founder of Quest Visual,[1][19][30][33] John DeWeese, who previously worked on the Electronic Arts game Spore,[19][30][33] and programmers Maia Good,[33] Bryan Lin, and Eric Park


"Google Goggles application for Android and iPhone has the capability to translate text or identify objects in an image, but it requires users to take a picture with their phones, and an active internet connection Word Lens does it on the fly, meaning it's interpreting frames in video, almost in real time A similar app called LookTel, designed to help blind people, scans print on objects such as packages of food and reads them aloud"[30]


Articles in the Wall Street Journal and Tom's Guide cited Clarke's third law describing Word Lens:"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"[23][34]

The New York Times journalist David Pogue included Word Lens in his list of "the best tech ideas of the year" 2010 10 ideas total[32] See 2010 Pogie Awards video

In the Wall Street Journal article by Ben Rooney, Word Lens received a rating of 4/5 and was described as "a sort of magic"[34]

Word Lens was chosen as a finalist for the 2010 Crunchies Best Technology Achievement award

Ellen of The Ellen DeGeneres Show demo'ed Word Lens and referred to it as 'amazing' in her segment Ellen Found the Best Apps!

Otavio Good won the 2012 Netexplo award in the category Innovation & Technology presented at the UNESCO headquarters for the creation of Word Lens[39]

The New York Times App Smart columnist Kit Eaton included Word Lens into his list of favorite apps[40]

History of updates

Program Features
VersionRelease DateSizeNew LanguagesNew DevicesNew Features
Word Lens 10December 16, 201036 MBEnglish ↔ SpanishiPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4th generationSnapshot or real-time video translation in color
Word Lens 101March 22, 201139 MBNoneiPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3GLocalized user content
Word Lens 11December 14, 2011138 MBEnglish ↔ FrenchiPhone 4SImproved OCR and accuracy of translation
Word Lens 12July 5, 2012180 MBEnglish ↔ ItalianAndroid phones, iPad 3 Wi-Fi, iPad 3 Wi-Fi + 4GFaster translation, improved user interface and program stability, retina display support for iPad 3
Word Lens 121July 22, 2012180 MBNoneNoneFixed crash for customers using iPad in French
Word Lens 122September 20, 2012194 MBNoneiPhone 5None
Word Lens 123November 21, 2012195 MBNoneiPad 4 Wi-Fi, iPad 4 Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad Mini Wi-Fi, iPad Mini Wi-Fi + CellularTutorials for new users, improvements in the "reverse words" demo mode
Word Lens 124November 27, 2012195 MBNoneNoneImprovements for British users
Word Lens 125November 28, 2012195 MBNoneNone"Dark screen" fixes
Word Lens 20February 20, 2013314 MBEnglish ↔ GermanNoneMotion tracking to reduce flicker, bug fixes
Word Lens 201February 27, 2013314 MBNoneNoneBug fixes
Word Lens 21May 29, 2013366 MBEnglish ↔ PortugueseNoneAbility to take screenshots of translations and share those online
Word Lens 211June 11, 2013366 MBNoneNoneBug fixes
Word Lens 212October 2, 2013355 MBNoneiPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPad Air Wi-Fi, iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad 2 Mini Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Mini Wi-Fi + CellularImproved user interface for iOS7, ability to restore purchased languages
Word Lens UnknownNovember 19, 2013UnknownNoneGoogle GlassUser command “Okay Glass, translate this” activates Word Lens
Word Lens 22February 7, 2014432 MBEnglish ↔ RussianNoneNone
Word Lens 221March 3, 2014432 MBNoneNoneDictionary lookup fix for Russian demo
Word Lens 222April 8, 2014432 MBNoneNoneDocumentation update
Word Lens 223April 18, 2014433 MBNoneNoneTranslation improvements

Table updated on April 23, 2014 based on refs[2][3][4]

See also

  • Augmented reality
  • Optical character recognition
  • Google Translate


  1. ^ a b Armstrong, Natalie April 19, 2011 "Word Lens app developer builds on social media buzz" Reutersmw-parser-output citecitationmw-parser-output citation qmw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-free amw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-registration amw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-subscription amw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registrationmw-parser-output cs1-subscription span,mw-parser-output cs1-registration spanmw-parser-output cs1-ws-icon amw-parser-output codecs1-codemw-parser-output cs1-hidden-errormw-parser-output cs1-visible-errormw-parser-output cs1-maintmw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registration,mw-parser-output cs1-formatmw-parser-output cs1-kern-left,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-leftmw-parser-output cs1-kern-right,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-right
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Word Lens on the iTunes App Store" itunesapplecom 2012 Retrieved July 11, 2012
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Word Lens on the Google Play Store" Google 2012 Retrieved July 11, 2012
  4. ^ a b Gannes, Liz November 19, 2013 "Next Google Glass Tricks Include Translating the World From Your Eyes" All Things Digital
  5. ^ a b Honan, Mat November 19, 2013 "Google's New Tools Show How Deep Glass Will Embed in Our Lives" Wired:Gadget Lab
  6. ^ Rosenblatt, Seth November 19, 2013 "Google Glass throws open its doors to developers" CNET
  7. ^ a b Lardinois, Frederic November 24, 2013 "Glass Just Got Way More Interesting" TechCrunch
  8. ^ a b Rosenbloom, Stephanie January 23, 2014 "Google Tools for Globetrotters" The New York Times:Travel
  9. ^ a b c Etherington, Darrell May 16, 2014 "Google Has Acquired Quest Visual, The Maker Of Camera-Based Translation App Word Lens" TechCrunch
  10. ^ a b c d e Rosenblatt, Seth May 16, 2014 "Google buys Word Lens maker to boost Translate" CNET
  11. ^ a b c d e Hall, Zac May 16, 2014 "Google acquires Word Lens app recently featured in Apple's iPhone ad "Powerful"" 9to5Mac
  12. ^ a b c d Winkler, Rolfe May 16, 2014 "Google Tries Another Reality With Quest Visual Purchase" The Wall Street Journal
  13. ^ a b Tschorn, Adam May 22, 2014 "Say what Word Lens translation app is easy and free for now" Los Angeles Times
  14. ^ "Quest Visual is joining Google!" questvisualcom 2014 Retrieved May 26, 2014
  15. ^ Turovsky, Barak January 14, 2015 "Hallo, hola, olá to the new, more powerful Google Translate app" Google:Official Blog Retrieved January 14, 2015
  16. ^ Dougherty, Conor January 14, 2015 "Google Translate App Gets an Upgrade" The New York Times:Bits Retrieved January 17, 2015
  17. ^ Rosenbloom, Stephanie January 14, 2015 "Updates for Google Translate Just Hold Up Your Phone" The New York Times:In Transit Retrieved January 18, 2015
  18. ^ Ulanoff, Lance January 15, 2015 "Hands on with Google Translate:A mix of awesome and OK" Mashable Retrieved January 18, 2015
  19. ^ a b c Tsotsis, Alexia December 16, 2010 "Word Lens Translates Words Inside of Images Yes Really" TechCrunch
  20. ^ Hennigan, WJ December 17, 2010 "Word Lens enables iPhone users to instantly translate Spanish to English" Los Angeles Times:Business/Technology Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  21. ^ Broida, Rick December 17, 2010 "Word Lens for iPhone translates Spanish to English—in real time!" CNET
  22. ^ a b Darren, Allan December 19, 2010 "Word Lens translation app planned for Android and more" Tech Watch
  23. ^ a b Yam, Marcus December 19, 2010 "Word Lens App is Like a Magical Visual Babel Fish" Tom's Guide:Software Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  24. ^ "Word Lens instant translation app launching on Android, plus global languages" Expert Reviews December 19, 2010
  25. ^ a b Eisenhower, Rachel December 21, 2010 "Cool App-titude:Word Lens" Signal Scape
  26. ^ Evans, Joel December 21, 2010 "Instant word translations without an internet connection with Word Lens" ZDNet
  27. ^ Sorrel, Charlie December 17, 2010 "Word Lens:Augmented Reality App Translates Street Signs Instantly" Wired:Gadget Lab Retrieved December 20, 2010
  28. ^ B, N December 18, 2010 "Word Lens:This changes everything" The Economist:Gulliver blog Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  29. ^ Kim, Ryan December 17, 2010 "Augmented Reality Translations:Word Lens vs Google Goggles" CNN Money:Fortune Tech Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  30. ^ a b c d e Milian, Mark December 20, 2010 "New iPhone app translates foreign-language signs" CNN:Tech Retrieved December 20, 2010 Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  31. ^ Grobart, Sam December 17, 2010 "Word Lens:Una App Loca" The New York Times:Technology Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  32. ^ a b Pogue, David December 29, 2010 "The Pogies:Best Tech Ideas of the Year" The New York Times:Technology Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  33. ^ a b c d e f Olson, Parmy December 22, 2010 "Hot, New 'Word Lens' App Is Founder's First Project In Augmented Reality" Forbes
  34. ^ a b c d Rooney, Ben December 29, 2010 "Apps We Use:Word Lens [iOS]" The Wall Street Journal:TechEurope Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  35. ^ Boutin, Paul May–June 2011 "A New Reality:Applications that overlay information on smart-phone screen views will change the way we interact with the world around us" Technology Review
  36. ^ Wise, Harrison December 14, 2011 "Word Lens Introduces French Language to Its Augmented Reality-Based Translation Capabilities" Yahoo Finance
  37. ^ Perez, Sarah December 19, 2011 "Bonnes Nouvelle! Word Lens Parle Français" TechCrunch
  38. ^ Velazco, Chris May 16, 2014 "Google acquires Word Lens makers to improve Translate" Engadget:TechEurope Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  39. ^ Dial, Minter March 16, 2012 "MDE23:Interview with Word Lens founder, Otavio Good at Netexplo" The Myndset:MDE23 Retrieved May 20, 2012 Italic or bold markup not allowed in:|publisher= help
  40. ^ Eaton, Kit June 13, 2012 "For Starters, These Are a Few of My Favorite Apps" The New York Times Retrieved June 15, 2012

External links

  • Quest Visual homepage
  • Original video demonstration of Word Lens
  • Otavio Good explains Word Lens 10
  • Otavio Good explains Word Lens 101 interview with Reuters
  • Independent demo of Word Lens
  • Apple ad Powerful featuring Word Lens for iPhone 5S

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