Way back in 2010, Word Lens arrived offering the ability to translate a foreign language by simply pointing your camera at the text in question. It wasn’t until two years later that the same feature appeared in Google Translate, though it was previously available through Google Goggles. Now, another two years down the line, Google has acquired Quest Visual, the maker of Word Lens, in a bid to improve its own camera translation service.
Google Translate can analyze text in a photo and spit out a rough translation, but Word Lens offers an augmented reality experience, translating text onscreen as soon as you point your camera at it. If Google can combine the Word Lens experience with the speed and accuracy of its massive data operation the result could be something amazing.
Quest Visual broke the news on Friday in a blog post, confirming that the main purpose of the buyout is to “incorporate” its technology into Google Translate. Combining the two services could take a while, and in the meantime the company is offering the Word Lens app and language packs for free online for both iOS and Android.