Through a Glass, Darkly
Word Lens enables iPhone users to instantly translate Spanish into English. Heard about it? A Google search reveals about 2.6 million pages, so market awareness is pretty good. The video is great, so great that it made me want to pick up the phone and order some ceramic steak knives, but since that required a couple of swipes and 10 key strokes for the toll-free steak knives, I decided instead to download the translation app onto my new iPhone and test it out.
I test these language tools all the time. You don't read about it too often because most of the tests are perfect fizzles. It goes something like this: I load the app. If I can figure it out, I use it until I get bored with it―10 minutes tops―then spend another half-hour pulling it off of my PC. So now, to reduce fizzling, I ignore them all. But that video on YouTube was so cool, even though as I look at it I can see how jammed it is.
Word Lens allows you to hold your iPhone up to a sign in Spanish, which it then translate into English on your iPhone screen. In the demo, someone holds up various signs, which the app then translates into a pitch for the app itself. The idea is that the app will allow you to read signs and menus when traveling. That’s if you are traveling in a Spanish-speaking country, of course, since English and Spanish are the only languages the tool can read. This type of interface is called "augmented reality," a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated sensory input such as sound or graphics.
In the demo, all the signs are printed using highly readable fonts against clear backgrounds, face-on and held at waist height about 6 feet from the lens. This is what I call augmented demo reality, as in you set up a "real world" demo that augments reality so that the device can actually work in a setting made completely and deceptively artificial.Continued on the next page