Google Translate’s instant camera translation gets an upgrade

What Mobile
July 11, 2019

Google Translate allows you to explore unfamiliar lands, communicate in different languages, and make connections that would be otherwise impossible. One of my favorite features on the Google Translate mobile app is instant camera translation, which allows you to see the world in your language by just pointing your camera lens at the foreign text. This is an intuitive way to understand your surroundings, and it’s especially helpful when you’re traveling abroad as it works even when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi or using cellular data. Today, we are launching new upgrades to this feature, so that it’s even more useful when you need it. 

Translate from 88 languages into 100+ languages

The instant camera translation adds support for 60 more languages, such as Arabic, Hindi, Malay, Thai and Vietnamese. You can find the full list of all 88 supported languages here.

What’s more exciting is that, previously you could only translate between English and other languages, but now you can translate into any of the 100+ languages supported on Google Translate. This means you can now translate from Arabic to French, or from Japanese to Chinese, etc. 

Automatically detect the language

When traveling abroad, especially in a region with multiple languages, it could be challenging for people to determine the language of the text that they needed to translate. We took care of that’in the new version of the app, you can just select “Detect language” as the source language, and the Translate app will automatically detect the language and translate. For example, say you are traveling through South America, where both Portuguese and Spanish is spoken, and you encounter a sign but you’re not sure what language that sign is in. Instead of trying to guess, the Translate app can now determine for you what language the sign is in, and then seamlessly translate it for you into your language of choice.

Better translations powered by Neural Machine Translation

For the first time, the Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology is built into the instant camera translations. The NMT technology produces more accurate and more natural translations by reducing translation errors by more than 55%-85% in certain language pairs. And most of the languages can be downloaded onto your device, so that you can use the feature without an internet connection. However, when your device is connected to the internet, the feature uses that connection to produce higher quality translations. This NMT text to translation technology is what also powers our recently launched Lens feature

A new experience

Last but not least, the feature gets a new look and is more intuitive to use. If you used the instant camera translations feature in the past, you might have noticed the translated text would flicker a bit when viewed on your phone, making it difficult to read. We’ve reduced that flickering, making the text more stable and easier to understand. The new look you’ll see has all three camera translation features conveniently located on the bottom of the app; instant – what this entire blog post is about, scan – which scans an image, makes it static and then allows the user to highlight text to be translated with their finger, and import – which allows users to import photos from their camera and translate the text within it. 

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