Microsoft this week announced a major update to its Translator app for Android. Key among these changes is the app’s ability to scan live and saved images and translate any text found within. (This feature is already available in Microsoft Translator for Windows and iOS.)
And that, folks, is amazing. For anyone who has been confused by street signs, menus, and other text in international destinations, this kind of capability can really transform the experience. I’m stuck here in Dedham this week, but I can’t wait to check this out for real the next time I travel internationally.
To reacquaint myself with Microsoft Translator, I grabbed a magazine we subscribe to and found a bit of French text. And … voila!
Now, this was from a still frame (which you can of course capture with the app). But if I’m reading this right, Microsoft Translator is adding live translation capabilities, where you just hold your phone up to some text and, using its camera, have the translation appear right on-screen. Either way, it’s pretty powerful.
Anyway. Here’s what’s new.
Image translation. As noted above, you can now translate text from your camera to get instant translations of signs and menus, Microsoft says. You can also translate saved images such as pictures from emails, the Internet, and social media. (This capability was added to Microsoft Translator for iOS back in February and has been part of the Translator apps for Windows and Windows Phone since 2010.)
Inline translation. Using the intra-app capabilities in Android, you can now use Microsoft Translate to translate phrases on the fly, and from within the app in which they appear. Just highlight the phrase to select it, choose “…” (“more”) from the pop-up menu that appears, and then choose Translator from the list that appears. (This feature can also be used to translate text you are typing into apps, email, and text messages, Microsoft notes.) Here’s a translation from today’s Le Monde:
Offline. Now, you can download any of the available 43 language packs and use Microsoft Translator offline too.
I should note for the record that Google Translate performs similar functionality, so if you are an Android user, you have choices. And if you’re a frequent international traveler or otherwise deal with multiple languages a lot, having both of these apps on your phone is a good idea.