Our sister blog Appletell points to an interesting iPhone app that might just point the way to the future of digital translation devices. The app, Word Lens, is an augmented reality app that will translate English words it sees into Spanish words, or vice versa, superimposing the translation in place of the original words on the screen.
This brings to reality what digital fansubbers have been doing for a lot of Japanese animation over the last few years: rather than just adding translations as subtitles at the bottom of the screen, they’ve actually been erasing the text of signs, letters, notes, and so on and painting translations directly into their place, often so well you can’t even tell it was done after the show was made. (It’s really amazing how far fansubbing has come; these works often look as good as or better than professionally-produced versions.)
At the moment, Word Lens can only translate between English and Spanish, but other language packs will be coming soon. I wonder how effective it will be on pages of foreign-language books or magazines?
One thing’s for sure: this is going to be an even bigger helper than phrasebooks for overseas travelers.