Google rolling out major update to Google Translate iOS app with Word Lens and near-realtime conversation translation January 28, 2015 10:56

Google has announced that it will shortly be rolling out a new version of its Google Translate iOS app, with two significant enhancements.

First, it is replacing the existing camera-based text translation with the far slicker Word Lens system. Google acquired Word Lens back in May of last year with this upgrade in mind. If you haven’t ever tried it, this was the app that brought home to me the truth of the Arthur C Clarke saying that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The near-instant augmented reality translation of signs and menus from any one of French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish–without needing an Internet connection–still makes me boggle every time I use it …

Second, Google has added the simultaneous interpretation feature–where two people who speak different languages can hold a conversation with the benefit of instant, spoken translations–first seen in the Android app last year. It also now automatically recognizes which language is being spoken, so tap the mic once to start the service and you can then just pause when you want what you’ve said to be translated.

Look out for the update if you already have the app installed, or check on iTunes in a few days for the new version–it will be a free download. Update: Now available.