Google just bought the company behind a smartphone app called Word Lens that visually translates text in real life scenarios right on your device using the camera and some behind-the-scenes intelligence.
With Word Lens, we’ve seen the beginnings of what’s possible when we harness the power of mobile devices to “see the world in your language.”
By joining Google, we can incorporate Quest Visual’s technology into Google Translate’s broad language coverage and translation capabilities in the future.
As a thank you to everybody who supported us on our journey, we’ve made both the app and the language packs free to download for a limited time while we transition to Google.
We’re looking forward to continuing our work at Google – stay tuned!
The kicker? Word Lens was recently featured rather prominently in Apple’s latest iPhone ad “Powerful” and even listed on Apple’s microsite promoting the film as an app to explore. Google, of course, offers a lot of apps on the iOS platform (36 alone if you just look at iPhone) so there’s no reason to suspect Google will remove the app from the App Store as Apple would likely do if it were to purchase the software (based on previous buys like Siri).
And it’s really a good fit for Google’s portfolio as far as acquisitions go. Word Lens even boasts support for Google Glass for translating words on the fly using visuals and its feature set somewhat resembles that of Google’s own Google Goggles app which can translate text by snapping a photo. As per their own announcement, Quest Visual, the company behind Word Lens, will work as a part of the Google Translate team.
As for acquisition details, no price has been disclosed for the purchase but Word Lens appears to reside on the more casual side of recent mergers and acquisitions unlike Google’s $3.2 billion deal for Nest (which is still being sold by Apple). Google has confirmed the acquisition to multiple outlets.
Word Lens first debuted in 2010 and is available on the App Store as a free download with packs to unlock for additional translations. Previously, these packs were sold as in-app purchases.
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