Augmented Reality

Word Lens - App At A Glance

The first version of Word Lens was introduced in 2010 by Quest Visual, Inc. a San Francisco, CA based company founded by Otavio Good a former video game developer, "to leverage the increasingly powerful computer vision capabilities of mobile devices. Their primary product, Word Lens, expands the utility of smartphones to include camera-based language translation"(Quest Visual, Inc official website).

Word Lens is an app that instantaneously translates the printed words in real time using built in video camer on ipad, ipod, iphone and Android smartphones. Its latest version 2.2 was updated on February 27, 2014(

Introducing Word Lens


Word Lens translates printed words from one language to another with your smartphone's video camera, in real time. No network connection needed! (

Word Lens - Free App

The app is free of charge and includes two modes to show how the technology works (

Reverse Words ( spells all words backwards)

Erase Words (digital white-out)

Language Packs

In order to use actual language translation feature of the app, language pairs have to be purchased separately using in-app purchase. Each pair around costs $4.99. These pairs include vice versa translation from English to French, Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese and Italian. (

Pros and Corns (


  • No network is required, results appear immediately on your video screen whenever you need it anywhere in the world.
  • Easy to use like regular camera.
  • Also translates by typing words in.
  • Best used on clearly printed text (e.g. signs and menu)


  • Does not recognize handwritting or stylized fonts.
  • Translation is not perfectbut you can get the general meaning.
  • Have to keep text in focus by holding it at least one hand length away.
  • Not good for old ipod Touch and ipad 2 cameras as they do not have auto focus feature. This results in reduced translation quality.
  • Language packs have to be purchased separately.

This app has been appreciated by number of well known newspapers and magazines like Bloomberg, WIRED, New York Times, TechCrunch and The Economist.

Otávio Good keeps a plaque with a few words of Spanish on the wall of his office in San Francisco so he can perform a magic trick for visitors. "Bienvenido al Futuro,"it says. Good points the camera on his iPhone at the sign. The plaque appears on the phone's screen, and Good smiles as the Spanish words flicker and transform into English: "Welcome to the Future." (MacMillan D., May 05, 2011)

Word Lens is one of the good examples of augmented reality that is now being used for the benefit of humanity. There are many other examples of augmented reality like as mentioned in our course text article Computer Eyes: Augmentd Reality Games for Mobiles (Wired, March 21, 2013, Catagories : Games). It gives the list of games like Paparazzi, Priclings, Droidshooting, ZombieRun! and ARBasketball. It briefly describes how these games are played and along with the user reviews.

In the article 7 Ways Augmented Reality Will Improve Your Life (Drell Lauren, Dec 19, 2012) the author mentions that it is not a futuristic technology but it is already here and is being used for number of purposes. The author describes Augmented Reality as : "In short, it's a way to use technology to redefine space, and it places a virtual layer over the world with geographic specificity ensuring a good fit." The example is of a simple box of LEGOs comes to life when seen through the (Augmented Reality) AR viewer. Following is the video showing the technology in action

Another example that I like the most about AR in our course is IKEA Augments Your Design and is supplemented by the following video:

From the thinking point in our course text I believe that we are not artificially creating need for augmented reality as it will make our lives easy and benefit us in number of ways. My example of Word Lens app is the direct proof of what I mean. It will really help individuals when they are travelling to other countries as this app will ease the language barrier and will help with easy navigation in unknown land . If you are travelling to countries where people speak languages that are available for translation on this app, I would definitely suggest to keep it handy.

This app has a great future as there is lot of room for improvement and modification. Adding more language pairs for translation will make it more desirable globally where people speak various different languages. The translation should not always be from English to other languages but it could be between languages other than English. For e.g. from French to Spanish and vice versa. The cost of language pack is reasonable and you don't have to buy all the options at the same time. As Canada is a bilingual country this app could come in handy while travelling to places like Quebec where ther are French speaking Canadians. It should be even modified to include hand written scripts along with printed text.

In short Word Lens is a powerful app that could help ease our travelling woes!

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