Word Lens, an app that translates English text to and from Spanish on the fly, is a reminder of just how powerful apps can be. But how's it really work? It ain't perfect, but it's still pretty damn amazing.

App of the Day: Word Lens for iPhone


I pointed Word Lens at all the Spanish I could find—the taco truck down the street, a Spanish-language newspaper, some signs on Google Street View and Google images—and I have to say that I was pretty amazed by how well it performed. Sure, sometimes words jump around like shapeshifters on crack, translating and retranslating rapidly as you jiggle the camera. And of course the translations are just done word by word, resulting in broken sentences that rarely have any semblance of correct syntax. But if you come into it with your expectations in check, Word Lens is still a terrific feat in mobile computing, even if its futuristic WOW quotient is, for now, a bit greater than its real world usefulness.

The app, which was released this morning by a company called QuestVisual, was two and half years in the making, according to founders Otavio Good and John DeWeese. Good admitted to TechCrunch that the "translation isn't perfect, but it gets the point across," and said that French, Italian, and Portuguese were likely candidates for future updates. But even without knowing what updates lie ahead for Word Lens, it's already an undeniably exciting taste of the future, one of the rare apps that transforms our smartphones into something entirely new. [Word Lens]