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.
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.
Free, $5 for language translation packs
Riven: The Sequel to Myst: Riven, the awesome, often frustrating sequel to Myst, has been ported in its entirety to iOS. It weighs in at 1.01GB, so you're probably gonna wanna download it on your computer and sync it over. $6. Also works on iPad
While I was checking out The 7th Guest for iPhone, the one thing I couldn't help but think was: Why is this so much faster now than when I played it 17 years ago on a PC?
It's entirely possible that my computer was insanely slow back then. It's also possible that they've sped up the animations, because people can't be bothered to watch a five-second transition to get from the kitchen to the main staircase. Or, it could just be that the iPhone 4 is actually an assload faster compared the machines that ran this game back in 1993.
The 7th Guest is notable because it was it was one of the first games to be on CDROM, and one of the first ones to be comprised almost fully of FMV sequences, with CG puzzles. And it was really, really scary. I think 12-year-old Jason, playing this game in the dark, had to stop on more than one occasion just to not get freaked out.
The game translates well to the iPhone, except that sometimes the puzzles are a bit hard to click on, because they're slightly tiny for the screen. Otherwise, man, playing this game again brings back a lot of memories. It's just $3 for the iPhone version (seriously!?) and $6 for the iPad version. If you have an iPad, you should go for that one, for the increased size. I don't think I actually finished The 11th Hour, so I'm waiting eagerly for that to hit iOS.
$3 for iPhone; $6 for iPad
Surfline: I guess there's supposed to be some sort of zen element to surfing, but that doesn't mean you can't obsessively check your smartphone for the surf report beforehand. The Surfline app's extended forecasts and live cameras should do the trick.
The companion app to the popular surf site claims to be the only one with live HD cameras (at over 90 destinations around the U.S. and Hawaii) though you'll need to be a premium Surfline member to enjoy them. Free users get a still camera image updated every 10 minutes, as well as surf reports that include wind speed, surf height, tides, weather and the like. The app also boasts surf forecasts (2 days for free users, 5 days for premium) as well as the ability to bookmark favorite spots and watch various surf videos. Free
Friends: A contacts manager to end all contacts managers, Friends lumps your Address Book contacts, Facebook friends, Twitter followees and more into one mega list. From there you can dive into a single contact and view their activity across social networks (or do regular stuff like text 'em, call 'em, write 'em a Facebook message, etc) or step back and view all your friends' activity—their Facebook posts, tweets and the like—in one huge aggregated feed. Right now the app supports Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Instapaper, though I wouldn't be surprised to see more in future updates. Read more in its App of the Day entry. $2
Google Latitude: iPhone users can now get their creep on with the the official Latitude app from the world's most creep-enabling company. Free
Lab: A pretty app for finding out all the stuff your iPhone doesn't tell you about the photos it takes-how big they are, in pixels and in megabytes; when they were taken; where they were taken; their aperture, ISO, and shutter speed information, etc. All that is served up for every photo in your Photo Roll with a nice clothesline interface, a map for where the photo was snapped, and a histogram for a quick exposure overview. Read more at its App of the Day entry. $1
Doodle Jump Christmas Special: I'm not that ashamed to admit that I still play Doodle Jump on a regular basis, and the new Doodle Jump Christmas Special, with not just a touch of tinsel here and there but a fully reworked winterized look, is as good an excuse as ever to be waving my iPhone back and forth like a madman for apparently no reason. And that's really all I want this Christmas. $1
SlingPlayer Mobile: The best way to get real TV on your iPhone just got much nicer looking—SlingPlayer Mobile 2.0 brings a new program guide and—and!—high quality streaming (if your bandwidth is up for it)! $30