App-driven life: Google translate foreign language signs
Google translate has a feature that can analyze an image and translate text instantly. Why? Because by the time your car passenger finds "interdiction de traverser le pont" in their French-to-English phrase book, your car is already filling up with river water.
For several years, the Google Translate application has been a quick and generally accurate way to decipher foreign languages on the go. Type a sentence, and Google can translate it into any of 65 languages within a few seconds (assuming you have a solid Internet connection). If you want to speak into the phone instead of typing, Google has you covered in any of 17 languages.
In August, Google rolled out its latest major update: translating images. Take a photo of a French road sign or Spanish menu, then rub your finger over the part of the image that you want to translate. Google scans the image and turns those pixels into letters.
The app tells you what it thinks it's reading, so you can spot and correct any cases in which the app mistakes an "I" for a lowercase "L" or an "O" for a zero. Once it has some words to work with, the app sends the text to a Google data center, where supercomputers churn through billions of translation data points, hunting for the right answer.
Google Translate is designed for signs, posters, and small blocks of text – not full pages. Try an entire paragraph, and the app often comes back with gobbledygook or nothing at all. For now, this image translation only works on Android devices. Sorry, iPhone users.