Google Goggles, the optical search tool released for Android last December received a significant update today which improves the app in a number of ways; including giving it the ability to recognize and translate languages.
Currently, the optical character recognition of Goggles is limited to five languages with Latin-based alphabets: English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian. When you snap a picture of text, the app scans the content and offers a translation window where you can choose what language you want the text to be translated into. In Google's mobile blog today, Software Engineers Alessandro Bissacco and Avi Flamholz said the goal is to eventually be able to read non-Latin languages like Chinese, Arabic and Hindi.
We tested the new functionality today, and it worked largely without issue. An unexpected bonus of the software we found is that it can actually work as a complement to Google's Web-based translator when using your PC. If you've translated a site through Google, text in Flash panels is not translated. So when you connect to a Flash-heavy site in another language, Google Translate really doesn't do much. However, if you snap a picture of your screen, you can translate Flash-based content.
This version also improves the overall functionality of Goggles, tweaking the user interface significantly with a new crop tool. This tool lets the user focus on a specific area and ignore the surroundings, a feature extremely useful for the new optical character recognition feature.
If the user has an Android device with a flash, he can now choose to turn it on or off; searches can now be done of items in the phone's photo gallery, and the database of artwork, products, and logos has grown to improve search results.
Google Goggles is available for download in the Android Market, and is a definite must-have for any user of the platform.