Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Next Google Glass Tricks Include Translating the World From Your Eyes

Imagine you’re traveling in a country whose language you don’t speak. You look up at a sign — say, a caution marker, or a list of directions. Oh, also, you’re wearing Google Glass. You say, “Okay Glass, translate this.” The words on the sign transform into your home language, so when you look through Glass, you can read them.

That’s what the new Word Lens app for Google Glass does, and it’s kind of magical. Blobs of translated text appear on the wearer’s screen with perspective intact, the same background color, and a matched font. It looks as though the sign has been reprinted in your own language.

This works best with Helvetica and other plain, sans-serif fonts, according to the Word Lens team, whose company is named Quest Visual. Times New Roman is a challenge.

Word Lens had previously been available for iPhone and Android.


The Word Lens Glass app works in real time, and it also accesses local storage. A dictionary of about 10,000 words in each chosen language are stored locally on the device, so users can get their translations even when they travel internationally without a data plan. That’s in contrast to Google’s own Google Goggles app, which requires a Web connection.

The app was built with the new Glass Developer Kit, which was released as a sneak peek to developers today at a hackathon in San Francisco. Word Lens got early access along with four other apps: Allthecooks (hands-free recipes), Strava (it’s the first time the activity-tracking company has given live progress reports about how well its runners and cyclists are doing, out of concern that using a phone or headphones would be unsafe), Spellista by GLU (the first Glass game) and GolfSight by SkyDroid (it’s for golf).

The GDK is supposed to be a major improvement on the original Glass Mirror API, which mostly helped with notifications and sharing. By contrast, the new tools give developers access to hardware (camera, GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, gestures) as well as offline and real-time capabilities.

More than 10,000 people have Glass today, a Google spokesman said. That’s not a big audience for an app developer. But developers at the event, including the Word Lens team, said they were appreciative that building for Glass with GDK is almost entirely the same as building for Android. They said they essentially ported over their Android apps and changed the user interface to be much, much simpler.

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