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Word Lens Instantly Translates Text Using an iPhone’s Camera

Wow. Word Lens is an iPhone app made by Quest Visual that lets iPhone 4 users visually translate printed text near-instantly. Hold your iPhone’s camera up to printed text and the app will automatically translate it into another language on your phone’s screen, fitted to the physical space in which the original was printed, as seen above.

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Word Lens instantly translates printed words from one language to another using the video camera on your iPhone. No network delay, no roaming fees, and no reception problems.

Word Lens is a dictionary — evolved. It looks up words for you, and shows them in context. You can use Word Lens on your vacations to translate restaurant menus, street signs, and other things that have clearly printed words.

Currently, the app only supports English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English translation, though hopefully more is coming. While the app is free to download, you have to purchase the translation packs for $4.99 each (English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English are separate), which the developer says will be jacked up to $9.99 in 2011. The translation isn’t totally accurate — though heck, neither is Google Translate — and high-contrast is needed for the translator to work fully effectively. But as a beta effort and a strong one at that, this shows the potential of what augmented reality can do.

Demo video below:

(via Laughing Squid | Developer’s site, iTunes page)

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