As smartphones, the software that run on them, and the services they access mature, these tiny yet extremely powerful computers continue to pull off feats that maybe even only fifteen years ago sounded like something out of science fiction. We can carry on natural conversations with virtual assistants, send notifications to our wrists, and view video in higher resolution than even our living room TVs are capable of displaying. One of these straight-out-of-sci-fi features to become reality has been the universal translator, tasking our phones to bridge communications between people speaking different tongues. Apps like Google Translate have already made this very tricky task look easy, and that software’s bag of tricks is only getting more impressive today, as Google reveals some powerful new real-time translation tools.
Google Translate already supported a back-and-forth spoken translation mode (at least for Android), letting the app act as a go-between for two users speaking different languages. It was functional, if less than the smoothest thing to use, with lots of tapping to prompt Google to deliver its translation. With today’s update, once you get the conversation started, translations will flow automatically – no need to manually tell the app when to listen to what. You can just speak naturally, and Translate will detect when you’ve stopped to offer its own translation.
Image-based translations also get a new real-time feature, with the app now supporting an overlay mode. Basically, you’ll hold your phone’s camera up to a foreign-language sign, and the app will replace that text with some you’re able to read in a kind of augmented reality mode. For this initial release of the feature, the app supports translations between English and French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
These two translation modes are on their way now to both the Android and iOS Translate apps, with distribution continuing throughout the next few days.