This evening at the Mobile Web Congress in Barcelona, Google CEO Eric Schmidt showed off a fantastic tourist tool – Google Goggles with Machine Translation.
It’s a system for taking a picture of some text and getting a near instant translation of it. Essentially the user takes a picture of something like a street-sign, restaurant menu or poster and then it uses optical character recognition (OCR) to extract the text from the image which is then submitted to Google Translate for Machine Translation.
Eric demonstrated the system on a Google Android powered phone and then went on to promote the rumoured speech-to-speech translation; “I’ve got Google translate which can translate 100 languages to 100 languages, so why can’t I just speak on the phone to someone who doesn’t speak my language? Well, we’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming soon.”
Of-course machine translation is generally far from accurate, but for casual indicative translation results it should suffice for tourists.
So if you’re one of the Android carrying tourists, your menu reading problems may be solved but there are still the expensive roaming data charges to worry about!