Google has made it easier than ever to read Japanese: all you need is a phone. Using the Google Translate app’s camera feature, users can point their phone at a bit of Japanese text and see it on their screen in real-time, only with English where the Japanese text previously existed. In that way, it functions essentially as an augmented reality translation app, marking another step toward breaking down the language barrier.
Google calls this Translate feature ‘Word Lens,’ and says the Japanese real-time translation support is now available to Android and iOS users. This joins the app’s previous (and still existing) ability to translate written Japanese text by taking a snapshot of it.
As the video above shows, you don’t need to take a photo for this Word Lens feature — instead, just hold the camera in front of it as if you’re recording a video. Look at the text through your phone screen rather than directly. Read the Japanese text in your own language. It’s about as close to magic as you can get.
Google lists the feature as being able to translate Japanese into English and English into Japanese. It isn’t clear when other languages will also be available for this Word Lens translation tool. To use the feature, you’ll need to download the Google Translate app for iOS or Android.