Google Buys Word Lens, A Magic Sign-Translating App That'll Make Your Trip Abroad A Breeze

In another epic win for the tech giant, on Google has bought translation app Word Lens, which harnesses the power of your cell phone's camera. Word Lens, created by Quest Visual, lets you take pictures of signs in different languages and get an immediate translation. It doesn't even just give you a text translation of the words — it actually changes the words on the sign, so the sign looks completely the same, just in a different language.

Now, that's seriously clever.

Currently, the app can translate between English and Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, French, German and Italian, but there's a good chance these options will expand once Google gets its hands on the app and fuses it with some of the capabilities of Google Translate. According to a release on Quest Visual's website, the company is hoping Google can take the product to the next level.

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.

There are still a few teething problems with the product — the translation can be a little hit-or-miss, and apparently you have to hold your phone incredibly still while taking the photograph — but the idea's still pretty darn cool.

If you're even marginally tempted to try out this sounds-almost-too-good-to-be-true app, then we strongly suggest that you download it ASAP — previously for sale, the app and all of the language packs you need to make it work are now available free for a limited time.

We've already downloaded it. We've got a hunch it could be useful. Here are just a few potential disasters that could be avoided by whipping out Word Lens...

1. Walking into the wrong restroom. A classic, but always a challenge. If everyone had Word Lens then we could avoid that situation where restaurants decide to use fancy images or silhouettes instead of words, which are then always terribly ambiguous. You end up having to walk in to the bathroom with your eyes half-closed, ready to make a lightning-quick retreat if you've picked the wrong door.

Matt Cardy/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

2. Ending up with pig's trotters/chicken feet/boiled cows head for dinner when all you wanted was a burger. Same goes if you ended up with the burger when you really fancied pig's trotters.

3. Sitting/leaning on wet paint. This sign's tricky enough when it's in English. There's something about a "wet paint" sign that means when you read it, you automatically forget that you just read it and sit down anyway. Can they make an app for that??

4. Accidentally burning our hair off by leaving foreign hair dye on too long. Because that totally happens. Same goes for bleaching facial hair. Bad things happen when you can't decipher instructions

5. Stumbling into a crime scene. May look cool in the movies, but we're going to go with "not at all cool" in real life.

Image: Jason Hiner/Twitter