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Google Acquires Quest Visual, Maker of 'Word Lens' App: Image-Based Translation Works With iOS, Android, Glass

First Posted: May 18, 2014 03:36 PM EDT
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Google has just a purchased Quest Visual, maker of the augmented reality translator app Word Lens. The cost of buyout was not announced. In the wake of this development, a post on the Word Lens website has appeared, stating, "By joining Google, we can incorporate Quest Visual's technology into Google Translate's broad language coverage and translation capabilities in the future. As a thank you to everybody who supported us on our journey, we've made both the app and the language packs free to download for a limited time while we transition to Google. We're looking forward to continuing our work at Google -- stay tuned!"

What happens now that Quest Visual is owned by Google?

Although the announcement indicates that Quest Visual's work will not simply end after the acquisition, it's not clear whether they will have any further independence from Google's own Translate service. The acquisition of Quest Visual by Google is speculated by technology news sources to be a sign of enhancements to come for Google's web-based, Android, and Glass translation abilities. Quest Visual's Word Lens helps users understand any strange signs or unfamiliar words, phrases and language by framing these using the camera of any iOS and Android gadget or Google Glass. The words, phrases, language and signs are translated from English to another language or vice versa. For example, it can translate word or phrases from Spanish to English or from English to French.

The buyout, however, may lead to the app adding other languages and adding the option of going between pairs of languages that don't include English, all courtesy of Translate's large array of language pairs. However, it may come at the cost of requiring an Internet connection, which Word Lens does not currently require. Alternatively, Google may be planning to incorporate Word Lens's ability to translate text directly through images into Google Translate, which currently requires words be converted to text before translating.

Established in 2009, Quest Visual is operated by four persons with San Francisco as their home base. It has collaborated with Google in the past regarding Word Lens. Google featured Word Lens during the Google Glass hackathon last November 2013, as one of several Glassware apps.

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